McCain wins big; Clinton, Obama stay close

States won by candidate:

Hillary Clinton: California, New York, New Jersey, Massachussets, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona

Barack Obama: Illinois, Georgia, Delaware, Alabama, Utah, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Idaho, Alaska

John McCain: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona

Mitt Romney: Massachusetts, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota

Mike Huckabee: Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee

Bay Area counties won by candidate:

John McCain: San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa County, Santa Cruz, Napa, Solano, San Benito, Sonoma

Hillary Clinton: San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano County, Napa, San Benito

Barack Obama: Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz, Sonoma

**In combined Bay Area counties -- Clinton beat Obama 48% to 47%, and McCain beat Romney 49% to 27%.

>> COMPLETE SUPER TUESDAY ELECTION RESULTS (Include presidential primaries, state propositions, local measures and Bay Area county-by-county primary voting)

California delivered for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the state's Democratic presidential primary, but even second place may have been fruitful for Barack Obama. The proportional system used by the Democrats means that regardless of the popular vote both Clinton and Obama will take large shares of the state's 370 pledged delegates.

The exact distribution of delegates had yet to be officially determined.

California was one of eight states and American Samoa won by Clinton on Super Tuesday, while Obama won 13 states. An Associated Press projection gave Clinton 492 delegates on the night, compared to 475 for Obama, raising their totals to 753 and 677, respectively.

With 92 percent of California precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Clinton had 52 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Obama.

"Without a doubt California remains Clinton country," said Luis Vizcaino, spokesman for her campaign in the state.

In exit polling by The Associated Press, women favored Clinton overwhelmingly but men were equally divided between Clinton and Obama.

Nearly 7 in 10 Hispanics favored Clinton in the exit survey, while nearly 8 in 10 black voters favored Obama.

"We always knew it would be an uphill battle," said Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for Obama's California campaign, "and we were able to close the gap in these past few weeks, which helps a lot for the race ahead."

Clinton had a built-in advantage because of her husband's presidency and she maintained a wide lead in pre-election polls until the final week of the race.

"I think it's very hard to beat the Clinton brand in California," said Garry South, a Democratic consultant. "California has its own special history with the Clintons."

Hispanic voters, in particular, have fond memories of Bill Clinton. Many cast their first ballots during his presidency.

"They know Hillary Clinton," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, national co-chair of her campaign. "They trust her. Both Bill and Hillary have delivered for California time and time again."

Despite the results, Obama's California operation partied into the night at a Hollywood dance club.

"I was hoping for an upset," said Debra Knighten, 50, of Los Angeles. "But he came pretty close to winning, and I don't think it's over."

She and others celebrated Obama's victories elsewhere in the country.

"You don't get elected the president of California," said Michael Kadish, a 34-year-old supporter from Oakland. "You get elected the president of the United States."

John McCain's string of cross-country victories put him on the brink of being unstoppable -- and showed his appeal across all segments of the Republican Party.

The Arizona senator was racking up enough convention delegates in Super Tuesday's coast-to-coast voting to place him within reach of the Republican presidential nomination that eluded him eight years ago. Mitt Romney sought to stretch out the bruising race for weeks more while Mike Huckabee competed for relevancy.

"We've won some of the biggest states in the country. We have won primaries in the West, the South, the Midwest, and the Northeast," McCain said. "And although I've never minded the role of the underdog ... we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party front-runner for the nomination of president of the United States. And I don't really mind it one bit."

He scored big victories in winner-take-all New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, and won in Illinois, Oklahoma and Arizona, fueled by a number of diverse voting groups, including moderates, independents, men, older voters, veterans and Hispanics. In one of the most hard-fought contests, McCain edged out his rivals to seize Missouri, also a winner-take-all and one Romney had pursued fiercely.

As results were tallied, McCain led with 439 delegates, to 199 for Romney and 136 for Huckabee. It takes 1,191 to win the nomination at this summer's convention in St. Paul, Minn.

"One thing that's clear is this campaign's going on!" Romney said, undeterred by the deficit -- and the fact that he won only caucuses in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota as well as primaries in Massachusetts, his home state, and Utah, whose huge Mormon population was friendly to one of their own.

Huckabee, too, promised to press on -- and tried to edge out Romney. Christian evangelicals contributed to the former Arkansas governor's strong showings in the South and helped cut into Romney's standing among conservatives.

"I've got to say that Mitt Romney was right about one thing -- this is a two man race. He was just wrong about who the other man in the race was. It's me, not him," Huckabee told The Associated Press, emboldened by wins in West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas.

The trio, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, fought Tuesday for more than 1,000 delegates at stake in primaries and caucuses in 21 states. Going into Tuesday's voting, McCain and Romney were best positioned to win the nomination, and the cross-country contests tested the reach of both to the GOP's ideological segments.

McCain led among Republicans who called themselves moderates, while Romney had an edge among Republicans who said they are conservatives, according to preliminary results of exit polling in 16 states for the AP and television networks. But, in a sign of progress for McCain, the two tied among self-described Republicans. McCain, as expected, had the advantage among independents who voted in GOP primaries.

On candidate qualities, McCain got strong support from people valuing experience, leadership and the ability to beat Democrats in a general election. He was widely considered the best Republican to be commander in chief. Romney, for his part, dominated among people looking for a candidate who shared their values and those wanting a hard line against illegal immigrants.

McCain, the Arizona senator and Vietnam prisoner of war, wanted to end the contest and seize the party prize he lost in 2000. He had a jolt of momentum behind him after his once-crippled candidacy rebounded last month to string together a series of wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. But, with a reputation for bucking the party, McCain faced intense resistance from high-profile conservative radio hosts with large audiences among the GOP rank-and-file.

"I am convinced Senator McCain is not a conservative, and in fact has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are," James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, said Tuesday in a statement to a conservative talk show host who read it on the air. He said he would not vote for McCain "as a matter of conscience," and described McCain as someone with a "legendary temper" who "often uses foul and obscene language." Dobson said he would sit out the general election if McCain was the GOP nominee.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and business executive, previously won in hard-fought Michigan, his native state, as well as scarcely contested Nevada, Wyoming and Maine. He was out to prove he could win a hotly contested state where he didn't have generational links and hoped to grab enough delegates to keep him competitive with McCain heading into the next round of contests Feb. 9 in Louisiana and Kansas, and Feb. 12 in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Romney was counting on benefiting from conservative backlash against McCain.

The history-making possibilities were high. McCain, age 71, would be the country's oldest first-term president when inaugurated, while Romney would be the nation's first Mormon president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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