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Experts Predict Lengthy Battles in US Presidential Nominating Contests


The unpredictable nature of this year's U.S. presidential election campaign suggests it will be some time before the nomination battles in both parties are resolved. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has a preview of the next important contests for both parties from Washington.

The Democratic race between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama now moves West and South.

Nevada will host party caucuses on January 19 and South Carolina holds a primary on January 26.

After that comes so-called Super Tuesday on February 5, when more than 20 states hold primaries or caucuses.

Obama's early victory in the Iowa caucuses and Clinton's stunning comeback win in the New Hampshire primary suggest an unpredictable battle ahead for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

"Well, I think it is going to be a much longer race than anybody anticipated," said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Baker adds a Clinton defeat in New Hampshire would have been devastating for her campaign.

Baker adds that Clinton's last-minute reversal of what had been a big Obama lead in the polls had a lot to do with women voters rallying around her in the final hours of the campaign.

"I think the real miscalculation on the part of the pollsters in New Hampshire was not the support for Obama, but the support for Clinton, and particularly the support for Senator Clinton among women," he added.

If anything, the battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination appears even more wide open.

Stuart Rothenberg publishes a political newsletter in Washington called the Rothenberg Political Report.

"Like the Democratic race, the Republican contest is a toss-up," he explained. "The big difference is the Republican field is much larger, which means it can fracture more ways than the Democratic contest."

Experts say an argument can be made for any one of five Republican contenders to eventually win the party's presidential nomination. They include Senator John McCain, who won the New Hampshire primary, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who placed first in the Iowa caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a huge stake in Tuesday's primary in Michigan while former Senator Fred Thompson is banking on a good showing in the South Carolina Republican primary on January 19.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is focused on winning the January 29 primary in Florida and using that as a springboard to gain momentum.

As in the Democratic race, the Super Tuesday contests involving more than 20 states on February 5 will be crucial.

But some experts speculate that for the first time in decades, the Republican nomination battle might not be resolved until the national nominating convention in early September in Minneapolis.

"All the way to the convention? It is hard to imagine because somewhere along the line, even in the Republican race, someone is likely to build up some momentum," Stuart Rothenberg noted. "But is it possible? Yes, I think people are now saying it is at least theoretically possible where six months ago they were dismissing it out of hand."

Much of the conventional political wisdom last year said the earlier and more compressed primary schedule would make it likely that apparent nominees would emerge for both parties fairly early in the process.

Ross Baker says a lot of analysts are revising their election timetables this year.

"I think that informed opinion was generally arguing for a quick knock-out," he said. "That is not going to happen and my guess is that we are not really going to have a clear picture until after the 5th of February when 22 states vote."

The primary and caucus votes continue until early June. The Democrats hold their national nominating convention in late August in Denver.

The U.S. presidential election will be held November 4.

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