No clear winner between Obama, Clinton after Super Tuesday
Hillary Clinton scored major wins on Super Tuesday in U.S. presidential primaries in California and New York, the two states with the most Democratic delegates, but the former first lady was unable to gain a decisive lead over rival Barack Obama, who earned victories in a greater number of contests.
The inconclusive results mean the race for the Democratic presidential nod will be drawn out through primaries and caucuses to come over the next weeks.
Preliminary results early Wednesday morning showed Clinton with 53 per cent of the vote in the Golden State, in large part because of absentee balloting and a Hispanic vote that swung in her favour. Obama, meanwhile, was at 37 per cent despite pre-vote polls that suggested he had a 13-point lead over Clinton.
"We are hearing the voices of people across America, people of all ages, of all colours, all faiths and all walks of life," Clinton told supporters in Manhattan.
The Democratic delegation from California is the largest of all the states by more than 150, totalling a whopping 370 pledged delegates who will be divided proportionately between Clinton and Obama, depending on the outcome of the vote.
The New York senator notched another big win earlier in the evening in her home state. With 99 per cent of precincts reporting there, Clinton had 57 per cent of the vote compared with Obama's 40 per cent.
The two presidential hopefuls spent much of the night neck and neck, as per most pundits' expectations, swapping incremental victories after the first polls closed at 7 p.m. in Georgia.
After trailing Clinton for the first part of the night and suffering a defeat in delegate-rich New York, Obama staged a comeback, giving him wins in more states than Clinton overall.
He banked victories in 13 states, compared with Clinton's eight. Her previously announced win in Missouri was later awarded to Obama after a final tally declared him the winner.
Speaking to a rally of screaming supporters in Chicago, Obama congratulated Clinton on her campaign so far and said the two would remain friends when it finished.
'A real choice:' Obama
"I congratulate her on her victories tonight. She's been running an outstanding race. But this fall we owe the American people a real choice," he said. "We have to choose between our future and our past."
Obama scored successes on Tuesday in Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, Connecticut, Idaho, Utah, Alabama, Delaware, Alaska, Missouri and Illinois, his home state.
Despite his loss in New York, the Illinois senator is expected to receive a good portion of the state's 232 Democratic delegates.
Clinton, who was the first lady in Arkansas for more than 12 years as the wife of former president and one-time state governor Bill Clinton, also won the primary there Tuesday night, as well as contests in Arizona, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
An early tally of Democratic delegates in the race for the party's presidential nomination, including those awarded during Super Tuesday, gave Clinton 706 and Obama 611.
Tuesday's contests, in more than 20 states, deliver 1,681 Democratic delegates, with 2,025 needed to secure the nomination.
Crucial test of support
The Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses are a crucial test of support for U.S. presidential hopefuls, although Democrats appeared to be voting proportionately more than Republicans, according to exit polls.
The contests are the most in a single day during a months-long series of polls across various states leading up to both parties' national conventions in August and September, at which delegates will select their candidates to run in the November presidential election.
The month-old U.S. primary marathon has so far seen Clinton's once-dominant lead over Obama, who snagged a decisive win in the opening caucus on Jan. 4 in Iowa, fade during the run-up to Feb. 5.
Polls conducted in the lead-up to Super Tuesday's votes suggested Obama and Clinton were in a dead heat across the country.
The campaign, which at times grew nasty as candidates traded rancorous barbs over race and the war in Iraq, became even more competitive when 2004 vice-presidential candidate John Edwards dropped out last Wednesday.
Clinton and Obama have spent a combined $20 million US on advertising in Super Tuesday states.
Nonetheless, neither Democratic candidate is expected to emerge from Super Tuesday with a decisive victory when all the votes are tallied and delegates allotted.
With files from the Associated Press