By Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama dominated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in presidential balloting in Nebraska, Louisiana and Washington state last night, besting her by huge margins in those contests and further narrowing her slender advantage in delegates needed to claim the Democratic presidential nomination.
In the Republican race, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was the vehicle for a conservative rebuke of the idea that his rival, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), had sewn up the nomination. Huckabee defeated McCain in Kansas, and the two were in tight races in Washington state and Louisiana.
With all Kansas precincts reporting, Huckabee won 60 percent of the vote, well ahead of McCain's 24 percent and Texas congressman Ron Paul's 11 percent. In Louisiana, Huckabee barely edged McCain for a second win, while in the Washington caucuses, Huckabee and McCain were in a tight race, with more than 80 percent of the results in.
"We both made our case, and ours seemed to sell pretty well," Huckabee told reporters last night. "While people in Washington and insiders continue to maybe gravitate to the senator's campaign, people across America are gravitating to our campaign and realizing there is a choice."
Although he has a huge lead in delegates won over Huckabee, McCain continued to struggle among evangelicals and "values voters." In Louisiana, Huckabee was preferred by 3 to 1 among voters who said it was important for the candidates to share their values, according to early exit polls there. Those voters accounted for half of all Republicans who went to the polls in the state.
Among Democrats, Obama (Ill.) won more than two-thirds of the vote in both Nebraska and Washington, and his lopsided victories gave a boost to his state-by-state strategy of methodically picking up delegates, while highlighting Clinton's struggles in caucuses. Clinton (N.Y.) is focusing her campaign on big states with dense population centers, several of which are scheduled to vote March 4.
Not including delegates awarded in Louisiana, Clinton led the overall hunt with 1,084 delegates to 1,057 for Obama. A total of 2,025 delegates are needed to win the Democratic nomination, and her advantage is largely a result of her edge among "superdelegates," a group made up largely of party and elected officials who make decisions about who to support independent of the primary or caucus results in their states.
"We won in Louisiana, we won in Nebraska, we won in Washington state," Obama told a roaring crowd at a Democratic fundraising dinner in Richmond last night. "We won north, we won south, we won in between. And I believe that we can win Virginia on Tuesday if you're ready to stand for change."
Obama's trio of victories suggests that the contest is likely to continue with the candidates running neck and neck for weeks and possibly months, and that it may not be decided until the Democratic National Convention in late August.
Some of the most striking results in the Democratic race came in Louisiana, where early exit polls conducted by the Associated Press showed a stark racial divide between the two candidates. Among white Democrats who said race was an issue for them, 90 percent said they voted for Clinton, while 90 percent of black voters who cited race as an issue said they voted for Obama.
About 45 percent of registered Democrats in Louisiana are African American. About one in five voters said race was important, while gender was important to about as many. There was less of a gender gap in Louisiana than in some earlier contests: Men and women voted about evenly, and Clinton won the most white men.
Clinton campaign officials did not even attempt to assert that it had been a good day for their candidate, but they announced that Clinton had raised $10 million from 100,000 donors since Super Tuesday.
The former first lady did not campaign in Louisiana, sending her husband to the state to represent her while she visited states in which she was more likely to pick up delegates. It was a surprising omission symbolically -- Louisiana has become a vital backdrop for Democrats since Hurricane Katrina -- but aides said that it made strategic sense.
Her campaign is already predicting defeat in races that will be held over the rest of this month and is turning its attention to the contests in Ohio and Texas on March 4 and in Pennsylvania on April 22. There are almost as many delegates at stake in those three states -- about 600 -- as there are in all the post-Super Tuesday contests in February.
Yesterday, Clinton traveled to Maine before flying to Richmond for the Democratic Party dinner, where she spoke about two hours before Obama did. She will campaign in Manassas and Roanoke and then attend a town hall meeting in Bowie today, ahead of Tuesday's Virginia-Maryland-D.C. "Potomac Primary."
Obama will campaign in Alexandria and Virginia Beach today, while actress Alfre Woodard will campaign for him in Maryland at a rally at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Former president Bill Clinton also has stops in the D.C. area today, starting out by attending church in Southeast before visiting Upper Marlboro, Catonsville, Baltimore and Silver Spring. Chelsea Clinton is scheduled to appear at a "Hillary Speaks for Me" event at Ultrabar downtown tonight.
At the Richmond dinner, Clinton did her best to appeal to a crowd filled with Obama supporters in a state that her campaign has not given up on but is bracing to lose. Asking the audience to envision the day a new president is inaugurated in 2009, Clinton said: "Our task tonight is to make sure that president is a Democrat."
"Because after seven long years of George W. Bush, seven years of incompetence, corruption and cronyism, seven years of government of the few, by the few and for the few, the next president will face tremendous challenges," Clinton said, eliciting boos as she mentioned President Bush. "As the president walks into the Oval Office, waiting there will be two wars, an economy in trouble, the health-care crisis, the energy crisis, all of the problems that I hear about every day from all across America."
The former first daughter is continuing to campaign for her mother despite the campaign's outrage over a remark made by an MSNBC host, David Shuster, that she is being "pimped out" by the campaign on her mother's behalf. Shuster apologized on the air and was suspended, but yesterday, Clinton sent a letter to NBC News President Steve Capus complaining about a "pattern of behavior" on the cable network.
Clinton's campaign has launched a coordinated effort to discredit Chris Matthews, the host of "Hardball," and has also criticized "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert for his aggressive questioning of the candidate during a Democratic debate earlier this year.
"I became Chelsea's mother long before I ran for any office, and I will always be a mom first and a public official second," Clinton wrote.
On the Republican side, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney both dropped out of the race after disappointing performances in earlier primaries, essentially conceding the nomination to McCain.
But Huckabee has refused to back down, buoyed by victories in Southern states on Super Tuesday. He said yesterday that he will stay in the race until either he or McCain has the number of delegates required to clinch the nomination at the party's national convention in Minnesota in early September. With the win in Kansas, Huckabee has 234 delegates, compared with McCain's 719.
His persistence has become an annoyance to some McCain supporters, one of whom lashed out at Huckabee yesterday. Del. Christopher B. Saxman, who is co-chairing McCain's Virginia campaign, called on Huckabee to get out of the race and to speak out against anti-McCain phone calls being made in the state.
"The fight for the Republican nomination is all but over. There is no path to victory for Mike Huckabee, yet his supporters continue to attack John McCain," Saxman said. "The sooner our party is united behind our eventual nominee, the better off we will be to face the onslaught from MoveOn.org and the Democratic Party."
Huckabee told reporters that he condemns negative phone calls, calling them "deplorable" and "despicable" but adding that the campaign finance laws pushed by McCain made it impossible for Huckabee to stop the calls. He repeatedly said that it is still possible for him to win the Republican nomination.
"I didn't major in math," he told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting yesterday morning. "I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them."
"We certainly congratulate Governor Huckabee and his supporters," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said last night. "The reality is that John McCain is the presumptive nominee of our party. We'll campaign in these upcoming states as long as Governor Huckabee is in the race, but our main focus is on uniting the Republican Party for victory in November."
Huckabee has decided to continue his campaign even as many leaders in the Republican Party finally seem willing to coalesce around McCain after a year in which many conservatives eyed him warily. In the past several days, a steady stream of party officials and others have endorsed McCain, lending his candidacy the aura of inevitability.
But McCain lost the straw poll at the CPAC meeting to Romney even though Romney had dropped out by the time most of the votes were cast. Romney edged out McCain, 35 percent to 34 percent, according to the CPAC Web site.
Huckabee told reporters that he will wait until he or McCain wins the needed 1,191 delegates. "I won't drop out until at least that happens," he said. "Then we'll see."