Obama takes Virginia, DC; McCain edges in VA

A surging Sen. Barack Obama has captured both the Virginia and District of Columbia primaries Tuesday while polls remain open later than scheduled in Maryland due to weather.

Sen. John McCain has captured a close race in Virginia.

With Obama expected to capture 60 percent of the vote in the Old Dominion, the Illinois Senator continues to put distance between himself and former frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The television networks declared Obama the winner in DC based on exit polls.

Clinton has already moved on, hoping to rebound in delegate-laden states like Ohio, Texas and Ohio.

Reports The Associated Press:

Sen. Barack Obama won the Virginia Democratic primary Tuesday night and reached out for victories in next-door Maryland and the District of Columbia, determined to erode or even erase Hillary Rodham Clinton’s delegate lead in the party’s presidential race.

Republican front-runner John McCain survived an unexpectedly difficult challenge of his own in Virginia before triumphing over former Arkansas Gov., Mike Huckabee in a race that triggered a heavy turnout of evangelical Christian voters. McCain picked up all 60 of the GOP delegates at stake, adding to his insurmountable lead.

Obama’s triumph in Virginia made it six straight over Clinton, the former first lady, now struggling in a race she once commanded.

Interviews with voters leaving the polls showed Obama split the white vote with Clinton, and his share of the black vote approached 90 percent. She led among white women, but he was preferred by a majority of white men.

Icy roads in Maryland prompted a judge to order a 90-minute extension in voting hours, delaying returns and the allocation of delegates there.

In all, there were 168 delegates at stake in primaries in those states and the District of Columbia.

Overall, Clinton had 1,151 delegates to 1,131 for Obama. Both are far from the 2,025 needed to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

In Virginia, four in 10 Republican voters — twice as many as in a 2000 primary — said they were born again or evangelical Christians, and roughly 70 percent of them supported Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister.

Virginia voters could vote in either primary in their state. In a twist, Huckabee was running slightly ahead of McCain among independents, who cast about a fifth of the Republican votes there.

There were 113 delegates at stake in the three GOP races.

The AP count showed McCain with 789 delegates. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race last week, had 288. Huckabee had 241 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 14.

It takes 1,191 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, and McCain appears to be on track to reach the target by late April.

The Democratic race was the definition of unsettled, with Clinton on the verge of surrendering her long-held lead in delegates, having shed her campaign manager and loaned her campaign $5 million in recent days, and facing defeats next week in Wisconsin and Hawaii.

As the votes were counted in her latest setbacks, her deputy campaign manager stepped down. Mike Henry announced his departure one day after Patti Solis Doyle was replaced as campaign manager with Maggie Williams, a longtime confidante of the former first lady.

Clinton hopes to respond with victories in Texas and Ohio on March 4, states where both candidates have already begun television advertising.

Since last week’s Super Tuesday contests in 22 states, Obama has won a primary in Louisiana as well as caucuses in Nebraska, Washington and Maine, all of them by large margins.

Obama has campaigned before huge crowds in recent days, and far outspent his rival on TV advertising in the states participating in the regional primary in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

He began airing commercials in the region more than a week ago, and spent an estimated $1.4 million. Clinton began hers last Friday, at a cost estimated at $210,000.

With Clinton facing a series of possible defeats, and Obama riding a wave of momentum, the two camps debated which contender is more likely to defeat McCain in the general election.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll found Obama with a narrow lead over the Arizona senator in a potential match-up, and Clinton running about even.

“We bring in voters who haven’t given Democrats a chance” in the past, said Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, citing support from independents.

Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist, countered that she holds appeal for women voters and Hispanics. “Hillary Clinton has a coalition of voters well-suited to winning the general election,” he said.