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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 January 2008, 09:39 GMT
Key wins for Clinton and McCain
John McCain at his victory rally

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain are celebrating wins in presidential contests in the US states of Nevada and South Carolina.

Mr McCain saw off a close challenge by Mike Huckabee in South Carolina to win by 33% to 30%.

Mrs Clinton beat Barack Obama by 51% to 45% in Nevada, based on 98% of returns.

BBC correspondents say the Democrats remain neck-and-neck overall but Mr McCain will take the advantage into the next Republican contest in Florida.

South Carolina is seen as significant because, since 1980, every Republican candidate who has won in South Carolina has gone on to win the party's nomination.

WINNERS AND RUNNERS-UP
Nevada Democrats: Clinton 51%, Obama 45%
South Carolina Republicans: McCain 33%, Huckabee 30%
Nevada Republicans: Romney 51%, Paul 14%

In Saturday's other contest, Mitt Romney won Nevada's Republican caucus, taking 51% of the vote.

Ron Paul, the only other Republican seriously to campaign in the state, came second with 14%, ahead of Mr McCain with 13%.

The caucus was largely overshadowed by South Carolina's primary, where most of the candidates focused their efforts.

'Feeling good'

Addressing cheering supporters, a smiling Mr McCain said: "We have a way to go, my friends, and we have some difficult contests to go - starting... in the state of Florida, where we are going to win.

The path to the White House is not ending here tonight
Mike Huckabee

"We are well on the way tonight and I feel very good about our chances."

He said he was running to keep the US "safe, prosperous and proud" and promised to restore the trust of the American people in their government.

The Arizona senator also referred wryly to his defeat in the state by George W Bush in 2000, saying: "You know, it's taken us a while - but what's eight years among friends?"

Mr Huckabee, conceding defeat, praised his rival for running "a civil and a good and a decent campaign" and told his supporters: "The path to the White House is not ending here tonight."

Hillary Clinton in Nevada as results are announced

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says that for John McCain, this was a narrow but important victory.

This is still a wide open race, our correspondent says, but if John McCain can win in the conservative South, he now has a chance to build real momentum.

Delegate split

Earlier in Nevada, Mrs Clinton described her win as "an especially wonderful day for me."

But Mr Obama's campaign said that he had won the battle in terms of the number of delegates that would be allocated to back him at the party conference this summer, where the Democratic presidential candidate will be chosen.

Graphic showing Democrat delegate count
Candidate wins nomination by accumulating 2,025 delegates
Most are "pledged delegates", won at primaries or caucuses
Delegates vote at summer convention to confirm nominee
The Associated Press reported that Mr Obama had won 13 delegates to Mrs Clinton's 12, partly because Mr Obama performed strongly in rural areas where a small lead is more likely to yield an extra delegate.

State party officials said the AP projection was correct as long as there were no change between now and April, when under Nevada caucus rules the final decision on delegates will be taken.

Democrat John Edwards came third in the caucus with 4%, falling well short of his second place in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month.

Going into the Nevada vote, Mrs Clinton was backed by influential politicians in the state's Hispanic community, which makes up about 25% of the population, while Mr Obama had the support of a powerful local union organisation.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama will now take their struggle for the Democratic nomination to South Carolina, where the party's primary takes place on 26 January.

Correspondents say the key issue will be which of the two candidates can attract the support of the state's black community, who make up a third of the population.

Republican drops out

The next big contest for the Republicans is Florida on 29 January.

Graphic showing Republican delegate count
Candidate wins nomination by accumulating 1,191 delegates
Most are "pledged delegates", won at primaries or caucuses
Delegates vote at summer convention to confirm nominee
Fred Thompson, Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani have five delegates or fewer
The ballots precede Super Tuesday on 5 February, when 22 states will hold nomination contests.

The Republican primary in South Carolina dealt a severe blow to former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who focused heavily on the state, but came third with 16% of the vote, with 96% of the vote counted.

Californian Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter dropped out of the White House race, citing his failure to gain traction in Nevada and South Carolina, where he won 2% and 1% of the vote respectively.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has virtually ignored the early races to concentrate on the bigger prize of Florida at the end of the month.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
McCain and Clinton celebrate their win



Select from the list below to view state level results.



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