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Religion, Iraq War Top US Southern States' Electoral Agenda


Several southern U.S. states are holding presidential primary elections or caucuses that may help determine the winners in the Republican and Democratic ranks. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner has more about the primaries in the south.

In southern states, issues such as religion, taxes and the war in Iraq are expected to take center stage in Tuesday's voting.

The contests in Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas include fewer delegates than those in California or New York, which are among the more than 20 states also holding primaries on Tuesday. But victories in the south could help candidates win a majority of delegates needed to select the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees later this year.

On the Republican side, former Governor Mike Huckabee has been campaigning heavily in the southern states, including his home state of Arkansas where he is expected to receive strong support.

Huckabee is hoping that Tuesday's polling will help him gain ground on leading Republican candidates, Senator John McCain and former Governor Mitt Romney.

Speaking on CNN Late Edition, Huckabee said he is confident of victory on Tuesday because of support from conservative and religious groups across the south.

"I am leading in the states that are going to be real critical on Super Tuesday, throughout the south," said Huckabee. "I am substantially ahead of Mitt Romney in these states."

Romney also has been trying to win a share of religious voters in the south and across the nation. At a brief appearance in Georgia on Monday, he attacked McCain as the candidate who opposes many priorities of religious communities.

"Do you want to have as our nominee and the leader of our party, someone who voted against the amendment to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman? No," said Romney.

McCain, has rejected criticism from Romney and others who say he does not support the conservative agenda. Speaking on CBS Face the Nation Sunday, he said he stands by his record in the Senate.

"I have been able to keep my conservative ideals and reach across the aisle and get things done," said McCain. "I think that is what people want."

On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama is expected to receive key support from many African-American communities in the south.

Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Clinton will be hoping to win in Arkansas where her husband President Clinton served as governor before going on to the White House. In recent days, Clinton also made campaign stops in Georgia, the biggest Super Tuesday prize in terms of the number of delegates.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Clinton says both she and Obama, if elected, would bring change to the White House.

"Each of us has broken barriers," said Clinton. "So whoever wins the nomination will change American history. The question is who has the strength and experience to change America for the better, to put us on the right path."

For both Republicans and Democrats, the results of voting in the south could boost their campaigns in other southern primaries. Voters in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi will cast their ballots in party elections in coming weeks.

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