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US Presidential Campaign Focuses on Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC Primaries


The focus of the U.S. presidential race shifts to the mid-Atlantic region of the country Tuesday, with nominating primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has a preview.

In the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois will be looking to build on his momentum after winning four contests on Saturday and Sunday.

Obama won a primary in Louisiana and caucuses in Nebraska, Washington state and Maine.

"I am here to say that my bet has paid off," he said. "My faith in the American people has been vindicated, because, everywhere I go, people say they want a new direction for the country."

Public opinion polls show Obama has a lead over Senator Hillary Clinton in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Following his sweep of the weekend contests, Clinton replaced campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle with longtime aide Maggie Williams.

Despite the latest losses, Senator Clinton remains upbeat, and is quick to point out a recent surge in fundraising.

"So many people responded - they went to my Web site, Hillary Clinton.com - that we have raised since Tuesday $10 million," she said.

The latest delegate count estimate by The Associated Press shows both Clinton and Obama with about 1,000 delegates apiece. It takes 2,025 to secure the Democratic Party nomination.

Clinton campaign officials are already looking past the Tuesday primaries to the March 4 contests in Texas and Ohio, where polls show her in the lead.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is hoping for a good showing in Tuesday's primary in Virginia.

Huckabee is looking to build momentum after he defeated frontrunner John McCain in contests in Kansas and Louisiana, while McCain pulled out a narrow victory in Washington state.

Huckabee told NBC's Today program he will remain in the race, despite McCain's huge lead in the delegate count.

"The Republican Party is not a party that likes to be told what to do," he said. "A lot of the establishment wants to just say it is over, and why do we not just have a coronation? But we are supposed to have an election, and that means people get to choose."

Huckabee's victories in Kansas and Louisiana suggest McCain has more work to do to win over conservative Republicans, who have long questioned his commitment to tax cuts and stopping illegal immigration.

But McCain is getting some high-profile help from President Bush. Mr. Bush told Fox News Sunday that he believes McCain is a true conservative, but that he needs to continue to reach out to conservatives within the Republican Party.

"You cannot please all of the people all of the time," he said. "But part of a campaign is for the nominee of a party to rally the party, and to rally the folks who are going to end up being the base from which he operates."

The president did not formally endorse McCain, but did say he was willing to campaign on behalf of the eventual Republican nominee.

McCain already has about half of the delegates he needs to win the party nomination.

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