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McCain Asks Republican Party to Unite; Clinton, Obama Battle On

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are preparing for a long, state-by-state battle for delegates after splitting victories in the Super Tuesday contests for the Democratic presidential nomination. On the Republican Party side, Senator John McCain is asking his party to unite behind him after scoring crucial election victories. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Senator Hillary Clinton won the two biggest prizes Tuesday in terms of delegates, New York and California, but the race for the Democratic nomination is far from over.

Senator Barack Obama scored wins in 13 states, giving him fresh momentum for upcoming state primaries. At a news conference in Chicago Wednesday, Obama was happy with his performance.

"We won more delegates and we won more states in every region of this country," said Barack Obama. "We won big states and small states, we won red states and blue states and we won swing states [states that sometime vote Republican or Democratic in general election]."

Senator Clinton's campaign, however, says she is still leading in the all-important delegate count, and different news media outlets are posting different delegate count totals, depending on the way they are calculated under a complex system. Everyone agrees however, that Clinton and Obama are virtually tied right now.

The campaigns are looking ahead to contests this Saturday in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state, and February 12 primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Obama is planning a major rally in New Orleans on Thurday.

For the Republicans, Senator John McCain scored major victories in California, New York and other states, leaving him with more than half the delegates needed for the nomination, and far ahead of his rivals. At his own news conference in Phoenix today, McCain asked conservative critics within his own party to "calm down a little bit", and said it is time for his party to unite behind him.

"Our message will be that we all share common conservative principles and we should coalesce around those isssues in which we are in agreement," said John McCain.

Some conservative Republicans consider McCain a maverick because of his positions on issues such as immigration and campaign finance reform.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee surprised many by sweeping much of the South - a region where McCain did not do as well, and he said he is staying in the race until someone has the 1,191 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.

Former Governor Mitt Romney won his home state of Massachusetts and several smaller western states, but he and Huckabee trail McCain by a substantial margin.