First results of Super Tuesday primaries are already in from the state of West Virginia, where former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has won the Republican nominating convention. U.S. voters are going to the polls or local caucuses in 24 states across the country today to choose their favorite Republican or Democratic presidential candidate. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.
Voters are having their say in states across the country from Massachusetts on the east coast to California in the West.
In the race for the Republican nomination, latest opinion polls show Arizona Senator John McCain with a commanding lead over the three remaining candidates, former Massachusetts Governors Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Representative Ron Paul of Texas.
McCain was confident today in New York, looking beyond the primaries to the general election.
"We're going to win today, and we're going to win the nomination and we're going to win the presidency," he said.
Romney made a last-minute dash across the country to try to prevent McCain from wrapping up the nomination. Romney said he is the "true conservative" in the race, seeking to exploit mistrust of McCain, considered by many conservatives as a Republican maverick on issues such as immigration and campaign-finance reform.
"We are going to hand the liberals in our party a little surprise on Tuesday evening when we take California, and we take Georgia, we take states across the country and we get this nomination," he said.
But Romney himself got a surprise in the first contest to be decided Tuesday, the Republican convention in West Virginia. Romney won the first round of voting, followed by Huckabee, with McCain third. But in the second round of voting, McCain's supporters reportedly switched over to vote for Huckabee to prevent Romney from winning, giving Huckabee the state's 18 pledged delegates.
In the Democratic Party race, a new average of five national public opinion polls show Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a virtual tie for nomination.
The states voting today include large, populous ones such as California and New York, rich in the delegates needed to secure the nomination.
Hillary Clinton headed out to vote early in New York, the state she represents. She said today's Super Tuesday contest in so many states represents new and unknown territory.
"Both intriguing and somewhat mystifying, because none of us really understands what the impact of all these contests on one day will be for any of us," she said.
The biggest prize in terms of delegates is California. Illinois Senator Barack Obama sought to lower expectations about his staging an upset victory in that crucial state.
"Senator Clinton, I think, has to be the prohibitive favorite going in, given her name recognition, but we have been steadily chipping away," he said.
Surveys show that Obama has caught up with Clinton in California. Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns say it is unlikely either one emerge from Super Tuesday with enough delegates to lock up the nomination.