Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) were the big winners in the "Potomac Primary," sweeping MD, VA and Washington, D.C. and winning by enormous margins over their opponents.
Obama won MD with 60 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and McCain bested Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) 55 percent to 30 percent.
Obama got 64 percent of the VA vote to Hillary's 35 percent; McCain won by a narrower - but still respectable - nine percent margin over Huckabee (50 percent to 41 percent).
And in Washington, D.C., Obama and McCain each won by a crushing 51 points (75 percent to 24 percent for Obama, and 68 percent to 17 percent for McCain).
Preliminary exit polls show that in VA and MD, Obama got 90 percent of the black vote, but split the white vote with Hillary, and that he won nearly 6 out of 10 of the women's vote in both states. In VA Obama got 80 percent of under-30, as well as 53 percent of the 65+ vote; and for the first time, voters making less than $50,000 a year chose him over Hillary 59 percent to 40 percent.
Unless Huckabee packs it in after tonight and there's no reason he shouldn't keep going until March 4th, as he's expected to do well in TX - McCain still has to fight for the conservative vote in the WI primary on February 19th and in OH, RI, TX and VT but this trio of wins may create a bandwagon effect.
Early exit polling in VA show that Huckabee got two-thirds of white evangelicals and those who self-identify as "very conservative." While McCain edged Huckabee out amongst voters who call themselves "somewhat" conservative, he won moderates by a 2:1 margin. Unlike other contests where McCain got strong support from independents, this time he split these votes with Huckabee 38 percent to 35 percent, with 20 percent voting for Ron Paul (R-TX).
In its exit polling Fox News found that 62 percent of Republican voters in VA said they "frequently" listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and other conservative talk show hosts all of whom have been attacking McCain for not being conservative enough and these voters supported Huckabee over McCain by a 10-oint margin (48 percent to 38 percent). Limbaugh, for instance, has also been attacking Huckabee as a phony conservative (Paul is so far out of the Republican mainstream Limbaugh doesn't waste air time on him), so these voters are voting against McCain rather than for Huckabee or Paul.
Exit polls in MD found Republicans split down the middle over whether McCain is a "true conservative," but those who cited terrorism as the most important issue facing the U.S. country picked McCain by 34 points over Huckabee (64 percent to 27 percent), and those who voted their pocketbooks gave McCain a 20 percent margin over his rival.
According to CNN, Obama now has a slim lead over Hillary in the delegate count (1,215 to 1,190) and McCain has roughly four times as many delegates as Huckabee (812 to 217).