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Clinton, Obama close; McCain ahead in U.S. vote

WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama and rival Hillary Clinton split key "Super Tuesday" victories and Republican John McCain rolled to a series of big wins as 24 U.S. states voted in contests that could help pick the presidential nominees of both parties.
Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton wave signs at her "Super Tuesday" primary election night rally in New York, February 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

In their hard-fought duel for the Democratic nomination, Obama won nine states and Clinton took six, including some of the biggest at stake on the biggest day of U.S. presidential voting ahead of November's election.

Obama scored victories in Georgia, Delaware, Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, Connecticut, Utah, Minnesota and his home state of Illinois. Clinton won Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and her home state of New York.

McCain, hoping to knock rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee out of the race with a strong night, cruised to wins in Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois and his home state of Arizona.

But Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor, and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said they would continue in the race. Huckabee won in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and West Virginia, while Romney won in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Utah, which has a heavy concentration of Mormons. Romney would be the first Mormon president.

More than half the total delegates to the Democratic convention in August and about 40 percent of the delegates to the Republican convention in September will be apportioned in Tuesday's voting. The delegates will pick the candidates for the Nov. 4 election.

The mixed results, with all the contenders scoring at least multiple wins, were likely to prolong the hard-fought nominating races in both parties. More contests are slated in the coming week in a half-dozen states.

"This is not going to be decided tonight," Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said on MSNBC.

Economic worries -- plunging housing values, rising energy and food prices, jittery financial markets and new data showing a big contraction in the service sector -- eclipsed the Iraq war as voters' top concern in both parties, exit polls showed.

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