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February 6, 2008

McCain seizes GOP command on Super Tuesday; Clinton, Obama battle for Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. John McCain seized command of the race for the Republican presidential nomination early Wednesday, winning delegate-rich primaries from the East Coast to California. Democratic rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama traded victories in an epic struggle with no end in sight.

Clinton won the biggest state, California, in the Democratic campaign, capitalizing on backing from Hispanic voters. Obama fashioned victories in Alabama and Georgia on the strength of black support.

McCain's own victory in the Republican race in the Golden State dealt a crushing blow to his closest pursuer, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"We've won some of the biggest states in the country," McCain told cheering supporters at a rally in Phoenix, hours before California made his Tuesday Super. An underdog for months, he proclaimed himself the front-runner at last, and added. "I don't really mind it one bit."

In the competition that counted the most, the Arizona senator had 522 delegates, more than 40 percent of the 1,191 needed for the nomination -- and far ahead of his rivals.

Even so, Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said they were staying in the race.

Neither Clinton nor Obama proclaimed overall victory on a Super Tuesday that sprawled across 22 states, and with good reason. Obama won 12 states and Clinton eight plus American Samoa. But with victories in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the former first lady led in the early tabulation of Super Tuesday delegates.

Democratic races in Missouri and New Mexico were too close to call. No returns had been tabulated in Republican caucuses in Alaska.

"I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation," said the former first lady, looking ahead to the primaries and caucuses yet to come.

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