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Obama sweeps primary in four states

The US Democratic presidential hopeful's momentum-driven campaign shows no signs of slowing down as he trounces party rival Hillary Clinton in the caucuses of Nebraska, Washington, Louisiana and the US Virgin Islands.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2008 03:32 IST

Barack Obama swept four contests in his historic and deadlocked battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton, slicing into his chief rival’s slim delegate lead and completing his best night of the Democratic presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee snatched two victories on Saturday from presumptive Republican candidate John McCain. Although his wins in Kansas and Louisiana were no threat to McCain’s lead, it reflected the difficulty McCain faces in wooing the party’s core conservative bloc. McCain won the night’s third Republican race, in Washington state.

Obama won the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state, while also notching up a victory in the US Virgin Islands. The first-term senator’s winning margins were substantial, ranging from roughly two-thirds of the vote in Washington and Nebraska to nearly 90 per cent in the Virgin Islands. In Louisiana, where many are still recovering from hardships created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama had 57 percent of the vote, to 36 percent for Clinton, according to nearly complete returns.

“Today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say ‘yes we can”’ Obama told a cheering audience of Democrats at a party dinner in Richmond, Virginia.

Clinton preceded Obama to the podium. She did not refer to the night’s voting, instead turning against McCain. “We have tried it President Bush’s way,” the former first lady said, “and now the Republicans have chosen more of the same.”

In all, the Democrats scrapped for 161 delegates in the night’s contests. In incomplete allocations, Obama won 72, Clinton 40. In overall totals according to one estimate, Clinton had 1,095 delegates to 1,070 for Obama, counting so-called superdelegates. They are party leaders not chosen at primaries or caucuses, free to change their minds. A total of 2,025 delegates is required to win the nomination at the national convention in Denver in late August.

On Sunday, Obama and Clinton compete in caucuses in Maine, where 24 delegates are at stake.

McCain faltered in his first ballot test since his stellar showing in the Super Tuesday races drove his main rival Mitt Romney out of the running and made him the candidate-in-waiting. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, got nearly 60 percent of the caucus vote in Kansas, winning all 36 delegates at stake. He also won the Louisiana primary, but fell short of 50 per cent, the threshold necessary to pocket the 20 delegates that were available. Instead, they will be awarded at a state convention next weekend. But Huckabee was still hopelessly behind McCain with his 719 delegates out of a total 1,191 needed to secure the Republican nomination. The preacher-turned-politician had 234 delegates. McCain won the Washington state caucuses. None of the state’s delegates will be awarded until next week.

The Democrats’ race was as close as the Republicans’ was not, after a slew of Super Tuesday contests failed to provide any clarity in their battle and made it likely they will continue their duel until the national convention in August. The three state races on Saturday, as well as the minor contest in the Virgin Islands, were exceedingly important in helping separate two candidates who have traded barbs and wins from the outset in a tense showdown between an African American man and a woman.

After the weekend contests, Clinton and Obama are focused on an upcoming trio of races on Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.