Obama beats Clinton in Wisconsin, Hawaii

Obama streak extended to 9 straight victories; McCain wins at least 31 delegates.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
Barack Obama won the Wisconsin primary and the Hawaii Democratic caucuses, giving him 10 straight triumphs over a fading Hillary Rodham Clinton in their epic struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
John McCain, the Republican front-runner, won a pair of primaries Tuesday in Wisconsin and Washington state to edge closer to clinching the party's nomination.
Obama who is vying to become the first black US president, won his native state by outdrawing Clinton among voters who turned out in record numbers at caucus sites across Hawaii. Hours earlier, the Illinois senator scored a double-digit win over Clinton in the Wisconsin primary.
The twin triumphs left the former first lady in desperate need of a comeback in a race she long commanded as front-runner.
Clinton, who a few months ago appeared to be the inevitable nominee, has been quickly losing ground and is now pinning her hopes on March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas, as well as Pennsylvania on April 22.
In a race growing increasingly negative, Obama cut deeply into Clinton's political bedrock in Wisconsin, splitting the support of white women almost evenly with her. According to polling place interviews, he also ran well among working class voters in the Midwestern state that was a prelude to primaries in the larger industrial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
With the votes counted in nearly all of Wisconsin's precincts, Obama was winning 58 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Clinton.
Obama has now won 10 straight primaries and caucuses since he battled Clinton to a split decision in the 22 Democratic contests on February 5, Super Tuesday.
"The change we seek is still months and miles away," Obama told a boisterous crowd in Houston in a speech in which he also pledged to end the war in Iraq in his first year in office, drawing a sharp contrast with McCain who supports the war and opposes any early withdrawal.
"I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he declared.
Clinton made no mention of her defeat, and showed no sign of surrender as she pressed her case that Obama offers little more than talk.
"It's about picking a president who relies not just on words, but on work, hard work, to get America back to work," Clinton said at a labor rally in Youngstown, Ohio. "Someone who's not just in the speeches business."
The New York senator did her best to push on, bluntly challenging Obama on his fitness to lead.
"Only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans," she said to cheers.
In a clear sign of their relative standing in the race, most cable television networks abruptly cut away from coverage of Clinton's rally when Obama began to speak in Texas.
McCain won the Republican primary with ease, dispatching former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and edging closer to the 1,191 delegates the Arizona senator needs to clinch the Republican nomination at the party convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, next summer. He also overwhelmingly won the primary in Washington, with 19 delegates at stake.
In scarcely veiled criticism of Obama, the Republican nominee-in-waiting said, "I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure that Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change."
Trying to draw a further contrast with Obama, the 45-year-old first-term senator, the 71-year-old McCain said, "I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced."
McCain's nomination has been assured since Super Tuesday three weeks ago, as first one, then another of his former rivals has dropped out and the party establishment has closed ranks behind him.
Not so in the Democratic race, where Obama and Clinton campaign seven days a week, he the strongest black presidential candidate in US history, she bidding to become the first woman to sit in the White House.
Ohio and Texas vote next on March 4, and even some of Clinton's supporters concede she must win one, and possibly both, to remain competitive. Two smaller states, Vermont and Rhode Island, also have primaries that day when 370 delegates in all will be at stake.
Wisconsin offered 74 national convention delegates. There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii, where Obama spent much of his youth.
Washington Democrats voted in a primary, too, but their delegates were picked earlier in the month in caucuses won by Obama. With slightly more than half the vote counted, Obama narrowly led Clinton by 50 percent to 47 percent.
Obama won at least 38 delegates in Wisconsin, with nine still to be awarded. Clinton won at least 27. The Democrats also had 20 delegates at stake in the Hawaii caucuses.
The Illinois senator's Wisconsin victory left him with 1,319 delegates in The Associated Press' count, compared with 1,245 for Clinton, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party's national convention in Denver.
The economy and trade were key issues in the race in Wisconsin, and seven in 10 voters said international trade has resulted in lost jobs in the state. Fewer than one in five said trade has created more jobs than it has lost.
The Democrats' focus on trade was certain to intensify, with primaries in Ohio in two weeks and in Pennsylvania on April 22.
Unlike the Democratic race, McCain was assured of the Republican nomination and concentrated on turning his primary campaign into a general election candidacy.
In one sign of progress in unifying the party, he split the conservative vote with Huckabee in Wisconsin. With nearly all the precincts reporting, McCain had 55 percent of the vote, while Huckabee has 37 percent.
McCain won at least 34 delegates Tuesday, with six delegates still to be awarded in Wisconsin and 16 in Washington State. Overall, McCain had 942 delegates and Huckabee had 245.
Huckabee said he was not ready to to quit the race, saying wanted to give Republican voters a choice and deliver his message about issues important to him such as opposition to abortion.