Obama Wins Washington, Nebraska

Obama has done well in caucus states like Iowa because he has been able to generate enthusiastic crowds and volunteers. He also picked up the endorsement of Washington’s governor, Christine Gregoire, on Friday.

[National News: Elections 2008]

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will win the Nebraska caucuses, CNN projects. In Nebraska, Obama led rival Hillary Clinton 68-32 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting.

He held a similar edge in Washington, where he was ahead 67-32 percent with 66 percent of precincts reporting. Obama has done well in caucus states like Iowa because he has been able to generate enthusiastic crowds and volunteers. He also picked up the endorsement of Washington’s governor, Christine Gregoire, on Friday.

On the Republican side, GOP front-runner John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were running a close race for first in Washington. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was trailing them by about 5 percentage points. Earlier, Huckabee scored a resounding win over McCain in the Kansas Republican caucuses.

Huckabee has also done well in caucuses like Iowa, where his grass-roots efforts and conservative activists are more likely to have greater influence. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Huckabee had 60 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for McCain and 11 percent for Paul.

Huckabee won all 36 of the delegates at stake. Saturday’s Republican contests in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington could predict whether the party will line up behind McCain as its candidate or provide Huckabee with an opportunity to zing the presumptive nominee.

“People across America are gravitating toward our campaign and realizing that there is still a choice. And that’s what we’ve said all along, that this race is far from being over,” Huckabee said after the results came in.

Kansas marked the first contest without former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who suspended his campaign Thursday. The results of the caucuses could indicate that the Republican party is not entirely ready to line up behind McCain, the Arizona senator who has had several rifts with conservatives.

Huckabee faces a daunting challenge. McCain has a significant lead in the delegate count after Super Tuesday. Huckabee has 217 delegates to McCain’s 714, according to CNN calculations.

“I know the pundits, and I know what they say: The math doesn’t work out,” Huckabee said Saturday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. “Well, I didn’t major in math, I majored in miracles. And I still believe in those, too.”

A senior McCain adviser said they were not surprised by the results in Kansas.

“There are more caucus states we will probably lose, but our campaign is focusing on a transition from front-runner to nominee,” he said.

Huckabee scored wins in the Southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and his native Arkansas on Super Tuesday, and social conservatives in Louisiana might mobilize behind him and send a message to McCain.

Huckabee pulled off a stunning win in the Iowa caucuses, the product of a grass-roots movement, and both Kansas and Washington are caucus states. Huckabee said Saturday that the $250,000 his campaign had raised online in 24 hours was a sign of the health of his presidential effort.

Louisiana, still suffering from Hurricane Katrina, could be a key political state this year — something not lost on both Democratic campaigns as they drum up last-minute votes.

“If you look at Louisiana the last two elections, if we’d gone the other way in either election, George Bush wouldn’t be president,” said Clancy Dubos, a columnist with the Gambit Weekly — an alternative newspaper in the state.

For Louisianans, their choice in a candidate will be based not only on national issues, but also on the local issue of rebuilding after the hurricane. Voters in New Orleans are especially desperate to hear the candidates’ plans for a city still on the brink and a state in desperate need. “People are concerned with coastal restoration and flood protection,” said political analyst Jeff Croueree. “One disappointing thing about this race is these issues have been pretty much forgotten.”

“The candidates are talking about Iraq and health care, but recovery and rebuilding the Gulf Coast is off the radar screen, and I think a lot of people in Louisiana are disappointed by that,” Croueree added.

Louisiana is among several contests being held this weekend. At stake are 182 Democratic delegates and 92 Republican delegates. The large African-American population in Louisiana could also provide Obama a win. African-Americans played a huge role in his wins in South Carolina two weeks ago and in Alabama and Georgia on Super Tuesday. Black voters made up 46 percent of Democratic voters in the 2004 Louisiana primary. On the Republican side, Huckabee was in Kansas on Friday. He attended rallies in Olathe, Wichita, Topeka and Garden City.

McCain, meanwhile, held a national security roundtable in Norfolk, Virginia, and later traveled to Wichita, Kansas. Afterward, it was off to Seattle.



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