Senator John McCain has won the Republican presidential primary in Florida, giving him a strong boost in the race for the party's nomination. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports Senator Hillary Clinton claimed victory in the Democratic race, despite limited campaigning.
Candidates in both parties wanted a strong showing in the southeastern state, Florida, to give them momentum next week, when more than 20 states hold primaries and caucuses. Experts say the February 5 contests will likely determine which candidates receive the nominations.
John McCain adds Tuesday's victory in Florida to earlier wins in two other key primary states. It gives him a majority of delegates in the party's nomination process. Tuesday's results showed the Arizona senator edged out former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in third and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in fourth.
Exit polls showed McCain won support from the state's many retirees as well as the influential Cuban-American community in the Miami area.
Speaking at a rally, McCain said the Florida primary victory will propel his candidacy in upcoming votes on so-called Super Tuesday.
"In one week, we will have as close to a national primary as we have ever had in this country. I intend to win it and be the nominee of our party," he said.
At a rally, Romney told supporters the race is not over and promised to continue his campaign focusing on the need to bring new ideas to Washington.
"So the right course for America is not to strengthen our government, but to strengthen our people. To do that, we will have to change Washington, and change will begin with us," he said.
In the Democratic race, Senator Hillary Clinton won a landslide over her chief rival Senator Barack Obama, with former Senator John Edwards in third. Clinton was the only candidate to appear on polling day in Florida, where Democrats had agreed not to campaign because of differences between state Democratic officials and national party leaders. Florida was stripped of its nominating delegates after state officials moved up the date of the primary.
Despite the problems, Clinton told supporters that turnout was strong in Florida and said the victory gives an important edge to her campaign.
"This resounding vote, with the millions of Americans who will vote next Tuesday, we will send a clear message that America is back and we are going to take charge of our destiny again," he said.
Candidates for both parties are set to campaign in several states ahead of polling on Super Tuesday. Republicans are holding a debate in California, Wednesday, and Democrats will meet in a debate in Los Angeles, Thursday.