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Potomac Primary Roundup: Weather Can't Stop McCain, Obama

Despite sleet and strong winds, voters in the District, Maryland and Virginia braved the cold and other weather to cast their ballots in yesterday's Potomac Primary. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., won a convincing sweep over Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., while U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself swept Alabama Gov. Mike Huckabee.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said he was "elated" by Obama's victory in his state, according to a story on The Capital's web site. "This victory sends a very powerful message that Maryland, like Virginia below the Mason Dixon line, heard Senator Obama's message, believed in it and made a very clear decision that we want to be a part of this movement for change," he said.

In the same article, Tom Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Maryland's significant black population helped Obama. He also said the senator's message of change worked with voters who perceive Hillary Clinton as an extension of her husband's presidency. "She's running against the Bush era and he's running against the Bush and Clinton era," Schaller said.

White voters in Maryland split between Clinton and Obama, notes another Capital story. Brandy Scheydt, a 32-year old white woman voted for Obama: "He's not a 35-year-politician. Maybe he can come up with something new."

On the Republican side, some in Maryland voiced disappointment with the field. "I was very disappointed," Bryan Smith, treasurer of the Republican Club of Frederick County and a former Mitt Romney supporter, told the Frederick News Post. "The pretty obvious winner became more obvious quicker than we thought," he said.

Other Maryland voters were disappointed because they showed up to vote and could not because the state runs a closed primary and they were unaffiliated. While officials did not turn away voters, read a story on the SoMdNews web site, the "provisional ballot" they were given cannot be counted. ''People just don't understand the process," Deborah Croan, an election judge, said. "They're shocked when we tell them that they can't vote in the primary election if they're unaffiliated."

Over 1.3 million voters cast ballots in Virginia, with Democrats heavily outnumbering Republicans.
Last night's results troubled John H. Hager, the Virginia's Republican Party chairman, who called Obama "America's most liberal U.S. senator. ... Despite his rhetoric he offers only the same old liberal policies of higher taxes, bigger government and retreat on the war on terror," Hager said in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

But much analysis of last night's Virginia results suggests that many Republicans voted for Obama in order to cast a ballot against what Studley's Dave Smith told the Times-Dispatch is perceived as "the Clinton machine" in the same article.

Obama lost to Clinton in only one of Virgina's 11 congressional districts, notes the Charlottesville Daily Progress, citing margins as high as 75 percent in Charlottesville.

But in Virginia's 9th district, Clinton won overwhelmingly - carrying 88 percent of the vote. That district's Congressman, Rich Boucher, has endorsed Obama and now faces negative backlash from at least one angry constituent. "We are wondering if Congressman Boucher represents Virginia or represents the 9th District," Jeff Mitchell, a Blacksburg attorney and local Democratic activist, said in an article on the WSLS-TV web site. "The local Democrats who stand with him every other November believe our party needs a candidate who can deliver results, not rhetoric -- and experience, not expectations."

State Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle County, predicted that Clinton may not be able to hold on much longer after Obama's big win. "She loses Wisconsin next week, she's finished, I think," Bell said in a Daily Progress article. Bell also noted that McCain's statewide win as important. "It makes him the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination," he said.

Obama won all 27 of Alexandria's precincts in the Democratic Primary, while McCain swept the city on the Republican front. "Sen. Obama has shown a remarkable ability to inspire people and make us believe that we really can be a better America," said Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman C. Richard Cranwell in a story from the Alexandria Times.

In Danville, Obama carried 4,138 votes to Hillary's 1,045, while Mike Huckabee squeaked by McCain by a margin of just 17 votes. Democrats greatly outnumbered the Republicans in Danville. "We're seeing a 4-to-1 turnout for Democrats," Ward 2 Precinct Chief Ralph Polk told the Danville Register & Bee. "It's heavy voting, very heavy voting. In the past, we've had 175 voters for a whole day's voting. Today we had 175 voters at lunchtime."

While McCain won Virginia overall with 50 percent of the vote to Huckabee's 41 percent, in some precincts, Huckabee proved stronger. For example, in Rockingham, Huckabee had 54 percent, while McCain only captured 36 percent. Wyant, 56, who teaches at Blue Ridge Community College, voted for Huckabee in favor of his "fair tax" advocacy. With other proposed plans, he says in a Harrisonburg Daily News Record article, "I have to be penalized for earning more income."

Elsewhere in Virginia, many anxious voters met with frustration when their polling precincts ran out of paper ballots. Local officials in Chesterfield, a historically Republican-leaning area, did not anticipate the strong Democratic voter turnout and had to print an extra 5,000 ballots. At Hening Elementary School in Chippenham, hundreds of waited hours after the 7 p.m. closing time to cast their votes. Lorie Hutchins, who arrived to vote around 5:30 p.m., expressed her frustration to the Times-Dispatch.

"I felt like I was basically wasting my time. It really discouraged me. I just felt weird about writing my vote on a blank piece and putting it in a box," she said. "They said they were counting it at the end of the night, but I feel like my vote wasn't counted. And I feel like it will discourage a lot of people from coming back."

In the District, Obama continues to enjoy the vociferous support of Mayor Adrian Fenty. "The longer people get to know Barack Obama and his message of inclusiveness and energy, the more they like him," he told hundreds of supporters packed into a Madison Hotel ballroom, according to a report from The Examiner.

D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, co-chairman of Clinton's D.C. steering committee, conceded that Obama has a strong youth following in addition to endorsement from politicians like Fenty. "I'd say, maybe the difference is Obama has a lot of young people, which is good," said Evans in The Examiner. "People are excited."

-- Compiled by Caitlin McDevitt

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 13, 2008; 3:29 PM ET
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Mike Huckabee is the (former) governor of Arkansas, not Alabama.

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