Obama calls Super Tuesday result 'big victory'

U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Wednesday he would emerge from Tuesday's cross-country Super Tuesday vote with more delegates than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

McCain surges ahead, tight race for Democratic nomination

U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Wednesday he would emerge from Tuesday's cross-country Super Tuesday vote with more delegates than rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, as results from the party's contests were still being tabulated. 

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama addresses reporters on Wednesday in Chicago. ((Rick Bowmer/Associated Press))

While veteran Senator John McCain made a clear surge toward the Republican nomination, including a win in the prized state of California, the Democratic race remained tight between Obama and Clinton following the 24-state vote.

By the Associated Press's latest accounting mid-Wednesday, Clinton held an advantage in delegates, with her total at 845 and Obama's at 765. It takes 2,025 delegates to claim the Democratic nomination. In one contest, the Democratic caucuses in New Mexico, the victor remained unsettled as of mid-Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Chicago, Obama went so far as to say the day's results were a "big victory."

"Last night we won more delegates and we won more states in every region of this country," he said, without elaborating on his claim. "We won big states and small states, we won red states and we won blue states and we won swing states."

Clinton takes N.Y., California

Clinton and Obama traded victories all day and both emerged with key wins. Clinton took the delegate-rich states of California and New York, as well as at least six other states, including Arkansas, which her husband, former president Bill Clinton, once governed.

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and his wife Cindy arrive at their Super Tuesday primary election-night party in Phoenix. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))

Propelled by overwhelming support from African-American and young voters, Obama's 13 wins in the Midwest and the South included the bellwether state of Missouri, which in presidential elections has predicted every presidential contest except one in the past 100 years.

The reporting of results on the Democratic side required more time to calculate based upon the party's complex nomination policies, which reward candidates with pledged delegates based upon the percentage of support he or she receives in voting. This contrasts with the winner-take-all system in most of the Republican contests.

The next contests will be held on Saturday, with key votes in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state. Democrats and Republicans in Texas, the state with the largest number of delegates remaining, will head to the polls on March 4.

Obama also dismissed claims that Democratic voters were now facing a potentially lengthy and rancorous battle between him and Clinton in the coming weeks, while McCain's nomination appeared to draw closer to an inevitability.

"I think it would be a problem if Senator Clinton's voters disliked me or my voters disliked Senator Clinton," Obama said.

For her part Tuesday night, Clinton also said she didn't believe the continued race would be detrimental to the eventual Democratic nominee.

"I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation," she told supporters in New York.

McCain appeals for unity

McCain, a 71-year-old Vietnam war veteran who had faced a barrage of criticism from conservative commentators ahead of the vote, won primaries in nine states, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney prevailed in six, according to incomplete tallies. The polls in the western state closed at 11 p.m. ET and were still being tallied as of early Wednesday.

The Arizona senator, whose campaign was declared all but dead just months ago amid financial troubles and staff changes, secured 613 delegates, to 269 for Romney in incomplete counting. It takes 1,191 to win the Republican nomination. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee garnered a surprise 190 delegates with key wins in West Virginia and southern states.

During a news conference Wednesday morning in Phoenix, McCain again defended his record as a conservative lawmaker and dismissed reports of an ideological schism developing inside the Republican fold over his potential nomination.

"Do we have a lot of work to do to unite the party? Sure," McCain told reporters. "But I've been involved in many, many campaigns, and after the campaign you've always got the tasking of uniting the party behind the nominee."

Meanwhile, Romney vowed his campaign would continue despite failing to capture key target states.

"I think there's some people who thought that it was all going to be done tonight, but it's not all done tonight," Romney told his supporters late Tuesday. "We're going to keep on battling."

Record turnout in all contests

Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters as she enters her Super Tuesday primary-night rally in New York. ((Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press))

The turnout for the cross-country poll was "enormous," with all 24 states and American Samoa showing record numbers of voters, the CBC's Henry Champ reported early Wednesday from Washington.

Voting results indicated the number of voters in Tuesday's Democratic contests dwarfed the turnout on the Republican side.

But the night was not as observers had predicted just months ago, when Clinton was all but assured of a comfortable Super Tuesday sweep, followed by an unchallenged nomination.

The feverish Obama campaign made significant in-roads into Clinton's backyard in New York and New Jersey ahead of later state votes in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia  that will "certainly play to his strength," the CBC's Champ said.

"Clearly, Hillary Clinton is not where she wanted to be," he said.

But the greatest indicator of how Democratic supporters are really viewing the race could be money, the CBC's Michael Colton said. Obama raised about $32 million in January, his biggest single month yet, while Clinton managed to pull in only $13 million.

"That tells you something about how Democrats are feeling," Colton said.

The Super Tuesday contests are the largest in a series of polls across various states leading up to both parties' national conventions in August and September, during which delegates will select their candidates to run in the November presidential election.

With files from the Associated Press