Obama, McCain Big Winners In East Coast Primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have edged out their competition in the Republican and Democratic parties with back-to-back victories in the Virginia and Maryland primaries.

According to preliminary data from exit polls of voters conducted for the AP and the television networks, Obama was getting the backing of two-thirds of men and nearly six in 10 women.

In previous Democratic presidential primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton has carried a slight majority of women while Obama has enjoyed support from slimmer majorities of males.

Over the weekend, Obama won Democratic contests in Louisiana, Washington state, Nebraska and Maine.

Obama has taken the lead in the race for Democratic delegates for the first time, inching ahead of Clinton. Obama got the boost from newly released results from the Washington state caucus, which was held last Saturday.

The state Democratic party said Tuesday night that Obama won 56 of the state’s 78 delegates, and Clinton won 26. That gives him 1,186, to 1,181 to Clinton. He was certain to pick up many more than Clinton from the three contests he won Tuesday.

There’s already some fallout from Senator Clinton’s losses as her deputy campaign manager has stepped down amid a string of losses to Obama. Mike Henry announced his departure Tuesday, a day after Maggie Williams replaced Patti Solis Doyle as Clinton’s campaign manager.

Solis Doyle had recruited Henry to join the team last year.

Henry was the campaign’s main field architect and was best known for penning a memo last spring urging Clinton not to compete in Iowa. He called it “our consistently weakest state.” The memo was leaked to the media, which embarrassed Clinton as she was beginning to build an organization in Iowa.

Clinton placed third in Iowa, behind Obama and John Edwards, who has since left the race. Her campaign has struggled since then.

Declaring herself “tested” and “ready,” Clinton is trying to brush off recent losses to Barack Obama.

Addressing supporters in El Paso, Texas, Clinton vowed to campaign across the delegate-rich state over the next three weeks to remind voters of her experience. Clinton has been quick to point to what she calls Obama’s lack of experience, and again tonight insisted she is the candidate that would be ready to lead “on day one.”

Meanwhile over in the Republican aisle Senator John McCain is the winner of an unexpectedly close race with Mike Huckabee in the Virginia Republican primary. He followed up the evening with victories in Maryland and Washington, DC.

Despite exit polling that showed the Arizona senator struggling to win support with evangelical Christians and conservatives, McCain will still collect 60 of Virginia’s national convention delegates.

Heading into Tuesday, McCain already held a 3-to-1 advantage in Republican convention delegates.

Both McCain and Obama followed up their victories in Virginia with primary wins in Maryland, where voters were hampered by weather conditions when traveling to polling locations, forcing an extension of the closing times for polls in that state.