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Obama, Huckabee Build Momentum in US Presidential Contests


Illinois Senator Barack Obama swept up more delegates Saturday in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, winning the day's two caucuses and one primary. On the Republican side, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won two victories. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

Barack Obama won handily in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state, with a comfortable lead in all three contests over New York Senator Hillary Clinton. The biggest prize was Washington state, which has 97 delegates, but Senator Clinton will also get a share of those delegates since the Democrats divide them proportionally.

Obama, who is black, won in Louisiana, which has a large African-American vote, but he also won in the midwestern state of Nebraska, which is mostly white, and in the diverse state of Washington, thereby enhancing his image as a candidate who can appeal across racial lines. Exit polls also indicate that he continued to do well among better educated and more affluent voters of all races.

Speaking to supporters in Richmond, Virginia, Obama celebrated his victories, saying

"Today voters from the west coast to the Gulf coast to the heart of America stood up to say, 'Yes, we can.' We won in Louisiana, we won in Nebraska, we won in Washington state, we won north, we won south, we won in between," he said.

These wins should help Obama as he moves to the next set of important contests, in Maryland and the District of Columbia, where he is heavily favored, and Virginia, which is hotly contested. Senator Clinton is spending time and money in Virginia in hopes of impeding Obama's momentum ahead of the contests on March fourth, when two populous and delegate-rich states, Texas and Ohio, are in play.

Analysts have speculated that Clinton could have an advantage among Hispanic voters here in Texas, but Obama has established a large organizational base in the lone star state and he has more money to spend on television advertising than Clinton, something that could prove crucial in a large state where personal appearances do not count as much as they did in some of the smaller states.

On the Republican side Saturday, Mike Huckabee chalked up victories in Kansas and Louisiana. Both states border Arkansas, where he served as governor and in both states there are substantial numbers of evangelical Christians and conservatives, many of whom are opposed to Republican frontrunner John McCain.

On Wednesday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney suspended his campaign after McCain took most of the states holding contests on Super Tuesday.

Although McCain, who earned a win in Washington State Saturday, is widely viewed as the probable Republican nominee, he faces rifts within his party over positions he has taken on such issues as tax cuts and immigration reform. Most analysts do not believe Huckabee can overtake McCain, but the former Baptist minister says he is in the race to win and that his victories on Saturday will help him carry his campaign forward.

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