Candidates put best spin on Super Tuesday
Published Wednesday, February 6, 2008 11:07PM EST
A day after the biggest primary night in recent U.S. history, the Democratic and Republican frontrunners were out on the campaign trail putting the best spin on Super Tuesday's results.
Illinois Senator Barak Obama, who won more states than his democratic opponent, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, said he took a majority of nearly 1,700 delegates that were up for grabs.
The official tally has still not come in and Obama's claims were challenged by the Clinton campaign. Clinton communications chief Howard Wolfson said it's likely that neither side has a significant delegate lead.
Clinton won which some consider some of the biggest Super Tuesday prizes -- California, New York, and Massachusetts. But most political pundits say the race for the Democrats is still up in the air.
Tuesday's results have raised the stakes for the Democratic candidates and underlined the challenges that lay ahead for Republican front-runner John McCain, said Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University.
"It's now trench warfare," he told Canada AM on Wednesday, speaking of the Clinton/Obama results. "It's a battle for delegates right down the line."
Obama is favoured in races coming up next Tuesday in several states, including Virginia and Maryland, and Clinton is hoping to secure victories in primaries in Ohio and Texas in March.
One of the most stunning results from Tuesday was that Obama lost in Massachusetts despite high profile support there, said Lichtman.
"We had this tremendous laying on of hands by Ted Kennedy and virtually the entire Kennedy clan on Barack Obama, basically saying look, Barack is the second coming of John F. Kennedy," Lichtman said.
"You even had John Kerry, the other senator from Massachusetts, endorsing Barack Obama. And guess what? Hillary Clinton sweeps in Massachusetts."
But Obama did achieve a key victory in Georgia, which was considered a key southern prize in Tuesday's primaries. Lichtman said a very heavy African-American turnout at the polls contributed to Obama's win in the state.
Still, overall victory could come down to a number of factors, Lichtman said, including late primaries in June, the Democratic convention in August, or voting by "super delegates."
"It's absolutely unpredictable and both Obama and Clinton have their very enthusiastic supporters and both have a strong claim on being powerful candidates," he said.
Republicans close to decision
On the Republican side, McCain solidified his lead for his party's presidential nomination on Tuesday.
But taking no chances, he cancelled a planned trip to Europe where he was to speak at a German security conference and meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His campaign said he wants to wrap up the nomination as quickly as possible.
McCain may be in the lead but still has a long way to go, Lichtman said.
He was the winner in Missouri, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and his home state of Arizona.
"McCain likely has won the Republican nomination but he has not yet won the love of conservatives," Lichtman said.
That was indicated by Mike Huckabee's strength in the south, where he won about five states, and Mitt Romney's surge in the west.
"John McCain has a lot of work to do to knit this party together," Lichtman said, pointing out that Christian broadcaster Dr. James Dobson and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh have both been "vitriolic" in their denunciation of McCain.
McCain, however, said he was adjusting to being in the position of front-runner.
"We've won a number of important victories in the closest thing we've had to a national primary," said McCain Tuesday night.
"We've won some of the biggest states in the country, in the south, the Midwest and the northeast. And although I've never minded the role of the underdog, and have relished come-from-behind victories, I think tonight we have to get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party front-runner."
McCain, an Arizona senator, capped the night by taking California and all its 170 delegates.
But even with the California win, he was just over halfway to getting the 1,191 delegates needed to guarantee the nomination.
Romney, his closest rival, managed to pull ahead in North Dakota, Utah, Montana, Minnesota and Massachusetts, where he served as governor.
"We're going to keep battling," Romney vowed at a rally in Boston. "We're going to go all the way to the convention and we're going to win this thing."
But one of the biggest winners of Super Tuesday may have been former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. He had strong victories in five southern states.