Those who thought this year's presidential nominating process could be neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow after Super Tuesday need to think again. The campaign will continue -- perhaps, for the Democrats, into the spring.
On the Republican side, both Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, pledged to soldier on despite a big night for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Huckabee, who won in five Southern states, claimed that he, not Romney, now ranks as the more conservative alternative to McCain.
But the tally of Republican delegates at the end of the day indicates that McCain will be hard to stop. The senator has more than 700 delegates, more than half of the 1,191 needed to clinch the nomination. On Tuesday, he won more delegates than his two rivals combined.
Super Tuesday -- or SuperDuper Tuesday or Tsunami Tuesday, as it was variously dubbed -- proved a continuation of McCain's rise from the ashes. Wins in both New Hampshire and South Carolina propelled him into Tuesday's battle for 22 states. With wins in both New York and California and seven other states in between, he has cemented his status as front-runner.
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McCain's campaign from now until the convention in St. Paul, Minn., this summer is likely to center less on keeping Romney and Huckabee at bay than on winning over disgruntled conservatives in his party. He was scheduled to meet with a group of conservative activists today, but he may never get the support of aggrieved right-wing Republicans, some of whom regard him as a traitor to the conservative cause.
Unlike in the Republican race, Super Tuesday failed to produce a clear front-runner for Democrats. While most of the Republican primaries were winner-take-all, nearly all the Democratic contests apportioned delegates according to the percentage of the vote each candidate received.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won the big prizes of the day, including New York, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts, but Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won a significant number of delegates from each of those states. He also finished first in 13 of the 22 states and ended up with almost as many delegates as Clinton.
Clinton now leads Obama by fewer than 100 delegates, a relatively narrow margin. Neither candidate is even halfway to the 2,025 needed to secure the nomination.
They will have little time to catch their breath after the grueling week of campaigning leading up to Super Tuesday. Over the next week, primaries will be held in Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia -- in what is being dubbed the Potomac Primaries -- plus caucuses in Nebraska, Washington, Maine and the Virgin Islands. All in all, 353 delegates will be up for grabs.
Significantly, Obama raised $32 million in January compared to Clinton's $13.5 million. And it was revealed Wednesday that Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million last month to keep up with Obama's TV advertising.
With a cache like that and the apparent ability to raise more if necessary, Obama can afford to advertise heavily in the remaining contests. That could be a significant advantage for him.
Again, though, the Democratic race is far from over. For all the hype, what Super Tuesday showed us about the two candidates is that they both are popular with Democratic voters and remain evenly matched.
We can't remember the last time the Virgin Islands might have played a real role in selecting the Democratic nominee.
Super Tuesday was a big day for McCain but produced no front-runner for Dems.
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