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US Democratic Presidential Race Likely to Be Long Battle

In the U.S. presidential race, Democrats are preparing for a long battle to select their party nominee for the White House. In the Republican race, Senator John McCain has claimed the mantle of frontrunner one day after the busiest day of voting so far in the presidential election cycle. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more on the status of the presidential race from Washington.

The day after the so-called Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, the Democratic race was a virtual tie between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Obama won more states than Clinton, but Clinton won larger states like California, New York and New Jersey.

Both candidates say they are now prepared for a lengthy nomination battle.

Obama spoke at a news conference in Chicago.

"She has got a familiar and well-appreciated name. She has got a political machine honed over two decades, and so from my perspective, this makes her the frontrunner in every single contest," he said. "But we have found is that there is a real thirst for change in this country."

Clinton told supporters in New York that she is the candidate with the experience to deal with a weakening U.S. economy.

"It is not about who is up and who is down. It is about your lives, your families and your futures," she said.

Democrats allocate their nominating delegates based on a system of proportional representation. That means that even though a candidate may lose a primary or caucus vote in a given state, he or she will still win a share of the delegates who make the final choice for the party nominee.

"When you look at the math, you see plenty of things for each side to brag about," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "But you do not see an enormous advantage for one side or the other. So obviously, the campaign moves forward and we have a whole series of primaries and caucuses to come and every one of them is going to count."

The Democratic race moves to Louisiana and Washington state on Saturday, then to Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia next Tuesday.

If the Clinton-Obama race remains close after those contests, a frontrunner may not emerge until March or April when some other large delegate rich states vote - including Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The last time the Democrats had a truly contested national nominating convention was in 1952.

Veteran broadcaster Bruce Morton has covered U.S. politics for decades and says this year's Democratic race might not be decided until the party convention in Denver, Colorado, in late August.

"I think it is great fun, in the first place. I have been going to political conventions since 1960 and we have never had a contest at a convention, and we may this year," he noted. "We do not know yet, there are some big states that still have to vote. But the Democrats, particularly because they use proportional representation, the winner does not win it all. You know, you have won California, but we are splitting up the delegates. You have won Ohio, but we are splitting up the delegates. This really could be a two-ballot convention."

Unlike the Democratic race, a clear frontrunner has emerged on the Republican side, where the rules are different and the winner of each state contest generally wins all of the delegates.

Senator John McCain of Arizona won several large states Tuesday including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois and has amassed a sizable lead in the race for Republican delegates.

McCain told a news conference in Phoenix he will continue to shore up support among conservative Republicans who have frequently accused him of taking liberal positions on issues such as taxes and immigration.

"We will unite the party behind our conservative principles and move forward and win the general election in November," he said.

McCain still faces a challenge from former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

Huckabee had a surprisingly good showing in some of the southern primaries on Tuesday, while Romney registered wins in his home state and in some of the smaller states out West.

Huckabee and Romney have vowed to continue in the race, hoping to tap into conservative discontent with McCain.

Republican pollster John McLaughlin says McCain has surged into a lead in the Republican field, because voters like his record on national security issues.

"Sooner or later, they are going to come down to the job description that makes the president different than any other elected position, his being commander in chief," he explained. "That is why John McCain has the lead right now among the Republicans. And that is why the Democrats are going to have a serious discussion about who is the best to challenge McCain in that regard."

Many political analysts now believe McCain may be able to secure the Republican presidential nomination before the national nominating convention is held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, in early September.