easily won the Republican contest in Wisconsin, as well as a primary in Washington, putting him ever closer to wrapping up the GOP nomination.
Obama beat Clinton 58 percent to 41 percent in Wisconsin's Democratic contest. On the Republican side, McCain scored a commanding victory, 55 percent to 37 percent, over former Arkansas Gov.. In Washington, with 57 percent of the vote in, McCain led Huckabee 49 percent to 22 percent.
Obama also cruised to an easy victory in the Hawaii caucuses, taking 76 percent of the vote to Clinton's 24 percent. Obama had been widely expected to win the state, where he spent the first six years of his life.
CBS News exit polling of Wisconsin Democratic voters indicated that Obama made significant gains among groups long thought to be loyal to Clinton. Women voters and Catholics were equally split between the two, and Obama led Clinton among those without college degrees by 13 percentage points. He also edged her out among self-identified Democrats, 53 percent to 46 percent, and won 54 percent of the vote from those in households making less than $50,000 a year.
Meanwhile, Obama continued to dominate the groups that have favored him in the past, winning convincing majorities of men (67 percent), college graduates (60 percent) and those in households earning more than $50,000 a year (60 percent).
"In a presidential campaign marked mostly by sharp turns, surprising development and shattered predictions, the Democratic contest has now become a story of remarkable consistency," CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs wrote in hisof the Wisconsin outcome. "Tonight saw more of the same - more victories by Barack Obama, more erosion of support from the types of voters who once formed Hillary Clinton's base and more separation between the two. It's all making it more and more likely Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination." ( )
Tuesday's Democratic primary in Washington was a non-binding "beauty contest" - delegates there were allocated based on the results of Feb. 9 caucuses, which Obama won easily.
Obama led Clinton in the non-binding primary 50 percent to 47 percent with 57 percent of precincts reporting.
For the Democrats, Wisconsin offered 74 national convention delegates, and an early test of support in industrial states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii, where neither Clinton nor Obama campaigned in person.
"I am grateful to the people of Wisconsin for their friendship and their support and their extraordinary civic pride," Obama said to supporters in Houston. "You know, in Wisconsin when you go to vote it's 5 degrees outside, but that has not deterred people from Milwaukee, to Green Bay, to Eau Claire, from all across the state from casting their ballot and exercising their civic duty." (
Clinton did not acknowledge the Wisconsin contest in a speech to supporters in Youngstown, Ohio, but did draw strong contrasts with her rival for the nomination.
"When I think about what we're really comparing in this election, you know, we can't just have speeches, we need to have solutions, and we need those solutions for America," she said. "While words matter, the best words in the world aren't enough unless you match them with action." (
Texas and Ohio both vote in primaries on March 4 that the former first lady's campaign has billed as the start of her political comeback. Including Obama's win in Wisconsin, she has lost nine contests in a row and hasn't been victorious since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.
3850355Obama's momentum in the Democratic race was apparent in McCain's remarks, which included criticism of the Illinois senator's sweeping rhetoric, but no obvious references to Clinton.
"I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change ... that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people," McCain said - a clear reference to Obama, whose soaring rhetoric has led critics, including McCain, to question whether he's all style and no substance.
"Our purpose is to keep this blessed country free, safe, prosperous and proud," McCain added. (
He also keyed in on Obama's statements about foreign policy and his willingness to meet with leaders of rogue nations, painting him as a novice who would put the country in danger.
"Will the next president have the experience?" he asked. "Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan, and suggested sitting down without preconditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?"
Last August, Obama had said if the United States had actionable intelligence about top terrorist targets in Pakistan and President Pervez Musharraf wouldn't act, the U.S. would. That pledge set off ripples of resentment in the relationship between Washington and Islamabad, prompting Pakistani officials to warn against U.S. incursions into their country.
At the Wisconsin rally, McCain's wife, Cindy, said, "I'm proud of my country, I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country." She appeared to be making a veiled reference to Michelle Obama's comment on Monday in Milwaukee: "Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am proud of my country."
Asked by reporters if Mrs. McCain was referring to the remark by the Illinois Democrat's wife, McCain said: "I don't think we have any comment on that." Mrs. McCain added, "I just wanted to make the statement that I have, and always will be, proud of my country."
The exit poll of Wisconsin Democrats indicated the economy was the most important issue for voters today. This has been the case throughout the campaign.
Nine in 10 Democratic voters said in the exit poll that the economy was in bad shape. On the issue of trade, a majority Wisconsin Democratic primary voters said U.S. trade with other countries takes jobs away from their state.
Thirty-one percent of Wisconsin Democrats in the exit poll decided on their candidate within the last week, but most made up their minds before that.
According to the exit poll, change was viewed as the most important quality to Democratic primary voters. Obama has a slight edge over Clinton on the question of who is most qualified to be commander in chief and is seen by 63 percent of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters as the candidate most likely to beat the Republican nominee in November.
CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said the exit poll numbers were similar to those seen in Virginia, a state Obama won handily as part of the Feb. 12 Potomac Primary.
"There can't be very much happiness in the Clinton camp tonight," Schieffer said. "She really is going to have her back to the wall now. Unless she does well in Texas and Ohio, I think this thing is about done for her." (
According to CBS News' estimate, Obama has won 1,349 delegates, compared to 1,252 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party's national convention in Denver. (See the latest CBS News state-by-state Democratic delegate scorecard)
Exit polls of Wisconsin Republican voters showed McCain winning majorities or pluralities among nearly every demographic group. The exception was evangelical Christians, 56 percent of whom backed Huckabee. McCain also has yet to win a majority of self-identified conservatives -- in Wisconsin, he won 48 percent of the conservative vote.
McCain inched closer to wrapping up the nomination with his wins in Wisconsin and Washington. By CBS News' estimate, the Arizona senator had 856 delegates, and Huckabee, his closest remaining rival, had 199. Texas Rep. See the latest CBS News state-by-state Republican delegate scorecard)had 10. (
In Little Rock on Tuesday, Huckabee said passion for his beliefs - not his ego - was the reason he remains in the Republican presidential race despite near-impossible odds.
"Let me assure you that if it were about ego, my ego doesn't enjoy getting these kinds of evenings where we don't win the primary elections," Huckabee said. "So it's got to be about something more than that, and it is. It's about convictions." (
The struggle between Clinton and Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination had been veering toward the negative in the days leading up to the Wisconsin and Hawaii contests.
Obama began the evening with eight straight primary and caucus victories, a post-Super Tuesday run that has propelled him past Clinton in the overall delegate race and enabled him to chip away at her advantage among elected officials within the party.
Clinton's aides initially signaled she would virtually concede Wisconsin, and the former first lady spent less time in the state than Obama.
Even so, she ran a television ad that accused her rival of ducking a debate in the state and added that she had the only health care plan that covers all Americans and the only economic plan to stop home foreclosures. "Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions" the commercial said.
Obama countered with an ad of his own, saying Clinton was guilty of "the same old politics." It added that he, not she, has a plan to protect Social Security and that his health care plan would cover more people.
The campaign grew increasingly testy over the weekend, when Clinton's aides accused her rival of plagiarism for delivering a speech that included words that had first been uttered by Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts governor and a friend of Obama.
"I really don't think this is too big of a deal," Obama told reporters later in the day, eager to lay the issue to rest quickly. He said Clinton had used his slogans, too.
And for the second time in two days, another instance of Obama using his friend's words has come to light, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
In June 2006, Patrick said, "I am not asking anybody to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your aspirations."
Seventeen months later, this is Obama: "I'm not asking you to take a chance on me. I'm also asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations."
Even before the votes were tallied in one state, the campaigners were looking ahead.
Some of Clinton's backers have said the one-time front-runner cannot afford to lose either Texas or Ohio. Already, she and Obama have begun advertising in Texas, with 193 delegates, and Ohio, with 141, and both visited the two states in the days before Wisconsin primary.
The Pennsylvania primary, with 158 delegates, is April 22, the last big state to vote.