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Shifts in the political landscape?

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Polling place interviews with voters Tuesday suggested subtle shifts in the political landscape.

For the first time this year, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ran first in a few states among self-identified Republicans. As usual, he was running strongly among independents.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was getting the votes of about 4 in 10 people who described themselves as conservative. McCain was wining about one-third of that group, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee about 1 in 5.

Overall, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was winning only a slight edge among women and white voters, groups that she had won handily in earlier contests, according to preliminary results from interviews with voters in 16 states leaving polling places.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was collecting the overwhelming majority of votes cast by blacks – a factor in victories in Alabama and Georgia.

Clinton continued strong appeal among Hispanics, winning nearly 6 in 10 of their votes. It was a big factor in her California triumph, and in her victory in Arizona, too. Huckabee won in West Virginia and other Southeastern states with a platform that appealed strongly to evangelical Christian voters.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, won a home state victory. He also took Utah, where fellow Mormons supported his candidacy. His superior organization produced caucus victories in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Colorado, and he breathed defiance. “We’re going to go all the way to the convention. We’re going to win this thing,” he told supporters in Boston.

Democrats played out a historic struggle between Clinton, seeking to become the first female president and Obama, hoping to become the first black to win the White House.

Clinton won at home in New York as well as in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona and Arkansas, where she was first lady for more than a decade. She also won the caucuses in American Samoa.

Obama won Connecticut, Georgia, Alabama, Delaware, Utah and his home state of Illinois. He prevailed in caucuses in North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Idaho and Colorado.

The allocation of delegates lagged the vote count by hours. That was particularly true for the Democrats, who divided theirs roughly in proportion to the popular vote.

Nine of the Republican contests were winner take all, and that was where McCain piled up his lead. The Arizona senator had 613 delegates to 269 for Romney and 190 for Huckabee. It takes 1,191 to clinch the presidential nomination at this summer’s convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Overall, Clinton had 845 delegates to 765 for Obama, out of the 2,025 needed to secure victory at the party convention in Denver.

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