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Big Winner: McCain, Little Winner: Clinton

Super Tuesday has the Republicans close to crowning a winner, and the Democrats duel will continue.
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Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) reaped the benefits of a three-way race Tuesday. Following voting in 20 states, he has almost certainly clinched the nomination for the Republican side by winning the majority of delegates.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., NY) maintained her lead in delegates by winning delegate-rich states, but couldn't entirely fend off a strong challenge from Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.). Clinton won the popular vote nationwide, while Obama won more states. Clinton holds a slight advantage.

Republicans Follow Script

The Republican primary followed a predictable script. McCain managed to collect wins in large states with huge troves of delegates, including victories in the Northeast and the Southwest, but he won only one state in middle America: Missouri.

According to CNN, McCain now holds a sizeable margin in projected delegates with 615. Mitt Romney stands in second place with 268, and Mike Huckabee remains in third place with 169. Rep. Ron Paul (R., Tex.) brings of the rear with a mere 16 delegates.

California proved critical. Despite a few outlying polls that showed Romney rising ahead of the vote, McCain won by a comfortable margin there, pulling in 42% of the votes vs. Romney's 33% and Huckabee's 12%. McCain collected 173 delegates in California, perhaps thanks to a late endorsement by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Yesterday, I posited Romney stood a chance in the race with a win in California and wins by Huckabee in the South. Huckabee picked off five states winning for the first time since his upset in Iowa, but Romney couldn't pull off his side of the parlay. If you move those California delegates to his column, the Republican race would be a virtual tie.

Romney and Huckabee are done. As McCain claimed victory, he tried to reconcile with his opponents and with Republican voters reluctant to support him. He said in his speech:

"I am grateful for and humbled by the prospect. And I promise you, if I am so fortunate to win your nomination, I will work hard to ensure that the conservative philosophy and principles of our great party...will again win the votes of a majority of the American people, and defeat any candidate our friends in the other party nominate."

McCain clearly has his eyes set on future battles in the general election with the Democrats.

Democrats: Razor Close

The Democratic vote proved close on Super Tuesday. So close, in fact, we still have no idea who has won in New Mexico, and it might take days before we know how the delegates in California will be allocated. Of course, both the Clinton and Obama camp claim they had a good night in an effort to win the spin battle in the media.

Let's take a look at the facts from the night. Clinton won the popular vote, and thus likely will hold the lead in delegates.

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According to CNN, the projected delegate count favors her with 825 (not including her

super delegates of 193) and Obama with 732 (not including 106 super delegates). She managed to win big coastal states like California, Massachusetts New Jersey, and New York, and collected wins in red states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The Democratic winner needs to secure 2025 delegates.

Obama has won 13 states so far -- Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah -- and he may still win in New Mexico. Clearly, a plurality of states has to bolster his camp.

The story line coming into Super Tuesday talked of his surging momentum and how it would bring him victories, possibly even in California. One poll, done by Zogby, Reuters and CSpan, had Obama winning California by double digits, but he lost by double digits, 52%-42%.

The Obama campaign tried to downplay talk in the media on Monday and Tuesday continuing to play the role of underdog, however. Obama stayed positive in his speech:

"The stakes are too high and the challenges too great to play the same Washington game with the same Washington players and somehow expect a different result.This time must be different. This time we have to turn the page. This time we have to write a new chapter in American history. This time we have to seize the moment."

At some point, Obama will have to seize the lead if he wants to win the nomination.

The Clinton campaign appeared to be happy with her results from Super Tuesday. She looked forward to fixing the problems of President Bush if she were to win the nomination:

"Now, we know the Republicans won't give up the White House without a fight. Well, let me be clear -- I won't let anyone Swift Boat this country's future. Together, we're going to take back America, because I see an America where our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top, where prosperity is shared and we create good jobs that stay right here in America."

Clinton has not won the nomination. But she does have the advantage in the popular vote, super delegates and two states yet to be awarded delegates (Florida and Michigan) and heading into the primaries of March and April. If she can continue to win big states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington she will eventually win the most delegates.

In fact, it appears as if this race comes down to election experience. Until Obama starts to win big states, his campaign will remain behind in the delegate race -- the only race that matters.

One other key point from the Democratic voting that should concern the Republicans come November: Democratic voters have turned out in record numbers, and this wave may be hard to stop once started.