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Published: Monday, 2/11/2008

Obama sweeps to victory in Maine

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Maine Democrats crowd the town hall for their caucus in Arrowsic. Turnout was heavy Sunday despite snow and bitter winds. Maine Democrats crowd the town hall for their caucus in Arrowsic. Turnout was heavy Sunday despite snow and bitter winds.
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AUGUSTA, Maine - Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in Maine's presidential caucuses yesterday, grabbing a majority of delegates as the state's Democrats turned out in heavy numbers for municipal gatherings.

Democrats in 420 Maine towns and cities were deciding how the state's 24 delegates will be allotted at the party's national convention in August.

Despite the weather, turnout was "incredible," party executive director Arden Manning said.

Mr. Obama exulted in his recent victories in Maine and elsewhere, telling a crowd of 18,000 last evening in Virginia Beach, Va., that "we have won on the Atlantic Coast, we have won on the Gulf Coast, we have won on the Pacific Coast," and places in between.

Mr. Obama won 15 of Maine's delegates and Mrs. Clinton won nine.

In the overall race for the nomination, Mrs. Clinton leads with 1,136, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Mr. Obama has 1,108.

Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia hold Democratic primaries tomorrow.

Mr. Obama was buoyant after winning in Maine yesterday and sweeping the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state Saturday.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is crying foul after John McCain's apparent victory in the Washington caucuses on Saturday.

Mr. Huckabee's campaign indicated yesterday that it will be exploring all available legal options regarding the "dubious final results." Mr. McCain was announced as the victor in the caucuses with 26 percent of the vote to Mr. Huckabee's 24 percent. Huckabee campaign chairman Ed Rollins said Luke Esser, Washington's Republican Party chairman, chose to call the race too quickly for Mr. McCain.

Mr. Rollins said Mr. Huckabee was losing by 242 votes with 87 percent of the vote counted. He said there were another 1,500 or so votes that were apparently not counted.

Mr. Rollins said the Huckabee campaign's lawyers will be on the ground in Washington soon to see why the count took so long, and why the vote-counting was stopped prematurely.

"If they can provide me with anything of substance to ask about, we'll be happy to inquire," Mr. Esser said.

The former Arkansas governor on Saturday won all 36 delegates at stake in Kansas and narrowly held on to win Louisiana's primary. He's hoping those results will give him momentum going into tomorrow's elections in Maryland and Virginia.

However, he badly trails Mr. McCain in the overall race for delegates. Some say he should even step aside as a way to help the GOP maintain resources for the general election.

Mr. Huckabee described such talk as "total nonsense."

Meanwhile, President Bush waded directly into the presidential campaign in an interview broadcast yesterday, defending Mr. McCain as a "true conservative" but warning that his onetime rival needs to shore up relations with the Republican Party's base.

"If John is the nominee, he has got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative, and I'll be glad to help him if he is the nominee," Mr. Bush said on Fox News Sunday.

"But he is a conservative. Look, he is very strong on national defense. He is tough fiscally. He believes the tax cuts ought to be permanent. He is pro-life. His principles are sound and solid, as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Bush said.



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