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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 08:09 GMT
Obama wins primaries clean sweep
Barack Obama at an election night rally in Wisconsin, 12 Feb 2008
Barack Obama appears to be on a winning streak

Illinois Senator Barack Obama looks set to overtake his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the latest round of primaries, Mr Obama has clinched Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

But neither has secured enough party delegates to secure the nomination to contest November's presidential poll.

For the Republicans, Senator John McCain is on course to win all three races, beating rival Mike Huckabee.

With eight consecutive primary wins behind him, Mr Obama is beginning to look formidable and the manner of his victory on Tuesday looks ominous for Mrs Clinton, says the BBC's North America editor, Justin Webb.

Halfway there

"Tonight we're on our way," Mr Obama told supporters in Wisconsin, which will hold the next primary on 19 February.

Democrats

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton
17 states, 1,592 delegates
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas
Barack ObamaBarack Obama
24 states, 1,723 delegates
Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin
2,025 delegates needed for nomination. Source AP (includes all kinds of delegates)
Q&A: US election delegates

Republicans

Mike HuckabeeMike Huckabee
8 states, 271 delegates
Campaign ended
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kansas, Louisiana
John McCainJohn McCain
20 states, 1,253 delegates
Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin
Mitt RomneyMitt Romney
11 states, 251 delegates
Campaign suspended
Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah
1,191 delegates needed for nomination. Source: AP (includes all kinds of delegates)

Mrs Clinton, who has recently lost a number of key staff, indicated she would be focusing on the races in Ohio and Texas in March as her best hope to retake the lead.

"We're going to sweep across Texas in the next three weeks," she said, making no mention of the three contests she lost.

"I'm tested, I'm ready, let's make it happen," she told supporters.

Each Democratic candidate is about halfway to winning the 2,025 delegates needed to secure victory at the party's national convention in August.

With most of the Tuesday's votes counted, Mr Obama has edged into the lead with 1,223 delegates to Mrs Clinton's 1,198 delegates, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Mrs Clinton's deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, reportedly stepped down on Monday, in a shake-up coming only a day after her campaign manager left.

Meanwhile Mr McCain, who holds a strong lead over his Republican rival Mike Huckabee, told supporters he was "fired up and ready to go".

Significant lead

With results counted in almost all of Virginia's precincts, Mr McCain led by 50% to Mr Huckabee's 41%.

In the District of Columbia, Mr McCain took 68% of the Republican vote to 17% for Mr Huckabee, with almost all the votes counted. Congressman Ron Paul took 8%.

John McCain on a campaign stop
We are approaching the end of the first half of this election on quite an upswing
John McCain

Mr McCain's victories mean he extends his significant lead in terms of the number of delegates who will vote for him at the party's national convention.

But correspondents say Mr McCain still has some work to do to unite his party, amid continuing criticisms from leading party members who have questioned his conservative credentials.

Mr Huckabee has been under pressure to stand aside for the sake of party unity, but has said he has no intention of pulling out.

Exit polls suggest he won the support of very conservative voters in Virginia by nearly three to one, while Mr McCain was backed by somewhat conservative and moderate Republicans.

Broad appeal

In Virginia, Mr Obama was leading by 64% to Mrs Clinton's 35.5%, with almost all precincts reporting.

His margin of victory was even greater in Washington DC, where he led by 75% to 24% with almost all the votes counted.

NEXT CONTESTS
19 Feb: Wisconsin (bi-party), Hawaii caucus (D)
4 March: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont (bi-party)

Analysts suggested the most significant aspect of Mr Obama's success was his broadening appeal across different demographic groups.

Exit polls conducted for AP in Virginia suggested Mr Obama had won the support of two-thirds of men and almost six in 10 women.

Mr Obama also made gains with women voters, who have been a core constituency for Mrs Clinton in past contests, and with white men and Latino voters.

And nine in 10 black voters in Virginia backed the Illinois senator, an even bigger margin than in previous primaries.

The economy was the top issue for both Democratic and Republican voters in the so-called Potomac primary, named after the river that runs through the two states and the nation's capital.

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US presidential candidates on the campaign trail



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