Politics

McCain takes command of GOP race; Romney on the ropes; Clinton, Obama divide up Super Tuesday

John McCain earned himself a super Wednesday, a day to savor coast-to-coast primary victories that ratified him as the Republican front-runner, while Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama dug in after a night of divided spoils in a Democratic presidential contest that could stretch to the spring.

McCain, whose campaign once verged on collapse, piled up more delegates than his two rivals combined, pushing over the halfway mark on what’s needed to clinch the nomination. His victories stretched from New York to California, the biggest prize. Still, Mitt Romney in the West and Mike Huckabee in the South proved to be go-to candidates for conservatives, and they vowed to press forward.

Clarity of any sort eluded the Democrats as campaigns turned to the next rounds — contests in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state Saturday and primaries in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

Obama wins Georgia, Illinois; McCain takes Illinois, New Jersey, Conn.; Clinton tops in Okla., Tenn., Ark.

Sen. Barack Obama captured the Illinois and Georgia Democratic primaries Tuesday night while Hillary Clinton appeared headed for victory in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

On the Republican side, John McCain won Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut but failed to beat Mitt Romney in Massachusetts after a big push there. Mike Huckabee won the West Virginia caucus and Arkansas.

In Georgia, exit polls showed black voters made up 52 percent and Obama captured 86 percent. But Obama also won 43 percent of the white vote, a sharp increase over the South Carolina results, a trend that could mean problems for Sen. Hillary Clinton in other states.

Among non African-American voters, Obama easily beat Clinton, garnering well over 50 percent.

Obama wins Georgia, Illinois

Sen. Barack Obama captured the Illinois and Georgia Democratic primaries Tuesday night while Hillary Clinton appeared headed for victory in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

On the Republican side, John McCain won Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut but failed to beat Mitt Romney in Massachusetts after a big push there. Mike Huckabee won the West Virginia caucus and Arkansas.

In Georgia, exit polls showed black voters made up 52 percent and Obama captured 86 percent. But Obama also won 43 percent of the white vote, a sharp increase over the South Carolina results, a trend that could mean problems for Sen. Hillary Clinton in other states.

Among non African-American voters, Obama easily beat Clinton, garnering well over 50 percent.

Can McCain seal the deal?

John McCain hoped to seal the deal. Mitt Romney wanted to stay alive. Either outcome was possible.

Super Tuesday’s coast-to-coast voting promised either to cap a turbulent yearlong campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by giving McCain enough convention delegates to make him unstoppable or to stretch the race out for weeks by putting Romney within reach of his chief rival’s total.

Decision time at the polls

Arizona Sen. John McCain challenged his remaining rivals for control of the Republican presidential race Tuesday in primaries and caucuses from Connecticut to California. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama vied for Democratic delegates in a grueling campaign with no end in sight.

After an early series of low-delegate, single-state contests, Super Tuesday was anything but — primaries and caucuses spread across nearly half the country in the most wide-open presidential campaign in memory.

The Clinton effect

Tom Effertz is 73 and a wheat farmer. Rosie Erganian is 52 and lives in a town on the Missouri River. He’s a Republican. She’s a Democrat. Both Missourians want anyone but Democrat Hillary Clinton for U.S. president.

“We’re tired of the Hillary thing,” Effertz said. “We’d had enough of Bill and Hillary.”

“I do not like the way they’ve been kind of nasty,” said Erganian, of Rocheport, Missouri. “I don’t want anybody in office like that.”

Tsunami Tuesday: Now the real chaos begins

Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a breakout in their eyeball-to-eyeball Democratic duel while Republican John McCain hoped to bury his rival’s presidential hopes in a blur of voting Tuesday from Alaska to the Atlantic.

An enormous cache of delegates was at stake — not enough to clinch a nomination but plenty enough to mint a runaway favorite, or even two.

The days of retail politicking in rustic diners was a distant memory, although just weeks old. Sens. Clinton and Obama each poured more than $1 million a day into TV ads in the last week alone; Clinton buying an hour on the Hallmark Channel for a town hall meeting on Monday night, Obama seeing some $250,000 disappear in 30 seconds in his Super Bowl ad a day earlier.

Year of the independent

Independent voters are suddenly the hottest commodity in American politics.

Independents propelled Sen. John McCain to victory in New Hampshire and limited his losses to Mitt Romney in Michigan. They helped build Sen. Barack Obama’s landslide victory in South Carolina. They will be up for grabs in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in California — but can’t vote for a Republican.

And if they are popular with the candidates now, by this fall they will be courted as never before.

Why? What’s going on?

More trouble for the Clintons

Time stood still inside a corner storefront on Malcolm X Boulevard.

At Sen. Barack Obama’s headquarters in Harlem, busy campaign volunteers stopped, stood and stared in amazement at the scene unfolding on the wide-screen television.

There he was, Sen. Ted Kennedy, a big, white embodiment of the Democratic political establishment, reaching out to embrace the man who could become the nation’s first black president.

Coast-to-coast campaigning

The top presidential candidates and their big-name supporters campaigned from coast to coast Sunday, but one contender seemed atop everyone’s mind: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney contrasted themselves, and each other, with Clinton as though she were the nominee. Her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, played along to a degree, saying Clinton is so polarizing that he is their party’s better bet.

Rather than diverting the less-than-flattering attention, Clinton embraced it.