Obama Sweeps Clinton in 4 Contests

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama swept Hillary Rodham Clinton in four Democratic contests, completing the best night of his campaign and securing a burst of momentum in their historic and deadlocked battle for the party's presidential nomination.

Meanwhile, preacher-turned-politician Mike Huckabee snatched two victories Saturday from presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. Although the wins in Kansas and Louisiana were no threat to McCain's lead, it reflected the difficulty the veteran Arizona senator faces in wooing the party's core conservative bloc. McCain won Saturday night's third Republican race, in Washington state.

Obama won caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state and the primary in Louisiana, a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and where residents were angered by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration's slow response in the wake of the storm.

Obama also notched a victory in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first-term senator's winning margins were substantial, ranging from roughly two-thirds of the vote in Washington and Nebraska to nearly 90 percent in the Virgin Islands.

In Louisiana, Obama had 57 percent of the vote, compared with 36 percent for Clinton, according to nearly complete returns.

"Today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say 'yes we can'" Obama told a cheering audience of Democrats at a party dinner in Richmond, Virginia, Saturday night.

Clinton preceded Obama to the podium. She did not refer to the night's voting, instead turning against McCain whose virtually assured nomination has forced both Democrats to reshape their strategies and cast themselves as best-suited to defeating him. "We have tried it President Bush's way," the former first lady said, "and now the Republicans have chosen more of the same."

She left quickly after her speech, departing before Obama's arrival. But his supporters made their presence known, sending up chants of "Obama" from the audience as she made her way offstage.

As in his earlier Southern triumphs in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, Obama, a black man, rode a wave of African-American support to victory in Louisiana. Clinton won the white vote overwhelmingly.

In all, the Democrats scrapped for 161 delegates in the night's contests. In incomplete allocations, Obama won 72, Clinton 40.

In overall totals in The Associated Press count, Clinton had 1,095 delegates to 1,070 for Obama, counting so-called superdelegates. They are party leaders not chosen at primaries or caucuses, free to change their minds. A total of 2,025 delegates is required to win the nomination at the national convention in Denver in late August.

On Sunday, Obama and Clinton compete in caucuses in Maine, where 24 delegates are at stake. They then face primaries on Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., all contests where Obama could have an advantage.

McCain faltered in his first ballot test since his stellar showing in the Super Tuesday races drove Romney, his main rival, out of the running and made him the candidate-in-waiting.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, got nearly 60 percent of the caucus vote in Kansas, winning all 36 delegates at stake. He also won the Louisiana primary, but fell short of 50 percent, the threshold necessary to pocket the 20 delegates that were available. Instead, they will be awarded at a state convention next weekend.

But Huckabee was still hopelessly behind McCain with his 719 delegates out of a total 1,191 needed to secure the Republican nomination. Huckabee had 234 delegates.

McCain won the Washington state caucuses. None of the state's delegates will be awarded until next week.