Obama, McCain sweep Potomac primaries
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama
will claim victory in all three contests in the
Potomac primaries, CNN projects.
Obama had a substantial lead over Hillary Clinton in
Virginia, and McCain was ahead of Mike Huckabee by
about 7 points, according to CNN projections.
In the District of Columbia, Obama was leading Clinton
75-23 percent, and McCain was leading Huckabee 67-17
percent, with about half of the precincts reporting.
Polls in Maryland were supposed to close at 8 p.m. ET,
but a judge extended voting for an extra 90 minutes
due to icy roads and heavy turnout.
McCain is leading Huckabee 812 to 217 in total
delegates, according to CNN estimates. A GOP candidate
needs 1,191 delegates to secure the nomination.
Obama's wins give him more delegates than Clinton for
the first time since the Iowa caucuses. According to
CNN calculations, Obama has 1,195 delegates to
To clinch the Democratic nomination, a candidate must
get 2,025 delegates.
Obama had led in pledged delegates, but Clinton had
held the lead when superdelegates were factored in.
The Illinois senator has now won eight consecutive
Superdelegates, a group of almost 800 Democratic Party
officials and leaders, are not required to make their
votes public and are free to change their minds.
Voters are participating in the so-called "Potomac
primaries" -- named for the river that separates
Virginia and Maryland and flows past the nation's
Conservative voter turnout was high in Virginia,
helping Huckabee there, exit polls showed.
Evangelical voters made up more than 40 percent of the
electorate and were breaking for Huckabee nearly 3 to
1 over McCain, exit polls showed.
In 2000, 55 percent of Virginia GOP voters identified
themselves as conservative. This year, those voters
made up 68 percent of the electorate, and they were
breaking for Huckabee over McCain by 16 percentage
In Maryland, turnout was anticipated to be about 40
percent, which is above normal according to Ross
Goldstein, deputy administrator for the state's Board
However, Goldstein said some anticipated inclement
weather later in the day could lower turnout numbers.
Virginia election officials also predicted a higher
than normal turnout of 30 to 40 percent for the
High turnout was reported in the northern part of the
state and in Richmond and Charlottesville, according
to Virginia Board of Elections spokeswoman Susan
There were reports of 45-minute lines in counties
around Richmond, she said.
Mark Coakley, the general register for Henrico County
said the turnout in his Richmond-area county was
"It's our first ever-dual primary so regardless it
would be record breaking," he said.
At an Alexandria, Virginia, polling station, election
officials said they were seeing a steady turnout.
"We're getting good, consistent turnout. We started
out with over 20 people at the gate when we opened up
the doors at 6 a.m.," election official Chris Tatem
said. "We're averaging maybe a hundred an hour of
people that push through here, which is good."
At around 1 p.m. Tuesday, the polling station's
precinct chief Tom Fina said, "We're almost at the
same level as we were last year for the Virginia
"Today with almost 700 votes before the day is much
more than half over, we are running considerably ahead
of the past experience that we've had," he said.
High winds swept through the state on Sunday and
Monday knocking out power in some areas and forcing
some polling stations to relocate. The storms knocked
out power to 50 stations, election officials said, but
power had been restored to all but eight of them.
Generators were used to restore power at some
District election officials did not give an estimate
of overall turnout, but two precincts in Washington
ran out of ballots, according to Bill O'Field, a
spokesman for the District Board of Elections.
Several other precincts had to have more ballots
delivered due to higher-than-expected turnout.
The demographics in Tuesday's primaries suggest Obama
could pull off a political hat trick over Clinton.
However, the senator from New York said Obama's recent
success doesn't faze her because future primaries will
swing her way. Video Watch as Obama seems to be on a
roll while Clinton regroups »
The devil is in the demographics for Democrats.
Maryland, Virginia and especially the District of
Columbia have large numbers of African-American and
affluent white voters. Obama has fared well in the
past with both groups. Video Watch as Clinton
downplays Obama's recent victories »
Previous exit polls indicate Obama also has done well
with independents voting in Democratic contests, and
Virginia's open primary permits independents to cast
ballots for either party.
In the Republican race, the question is whether McCain
can start to unify the Republican party behind his
Huckabee is coming off a big win Saturday in Kansas,
where he won by double digits, and another narrower
win in Louisiana.
McCain edged out the former Arkansas governor in the
Washington caucuses, but Huckabee is questioning the
Huckabee has done well with Christian conservatives
and rural voters, and McCain's performance last
weekend suggests the GOP, particularly conservative
voters, are not quite ready to unite behind him.
McCain, however, scoffed at the notion that the former
Arkansas governor could close the over 500-delegate
gap that separates the two GOP contenders.
"We are doing fine. We have 700 and some -- close to
800 delegates, and the last time I checked Gov.
Huckabee has very few," McCain said.
"So I think I am pretty happy with the situation that
we are in." He said Tuesday he was "guardedly
optimistic" about the Potomac primaries.
CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Erik Tavcar contributed to