MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Super Tuesday has come and gone, but the largest primary day in U.S. history continues to reverberate in national politics. The Republicans have a clear front runner, but the Democratic contest looks tighter than ever and there are plenty of question marks about the results.
Joining us to sort these out is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Welcome, Mara. And - I can't imagine you got much sleep last night.
First though, what's happening since everybody got a few hours of sleep this morning?
MARA LIASSON: Yeah. Speak for yourself. It felt like minutes to me but we have gotten some news overnight. We got closure about Missouri. That's the state where there was an exceedingly close race. It was called first for Clinton by the AP and some television networks but then for Obama. So Obama has won Missouri by about 6,000 votes. The delay appears to have been those Saint Louis inner-ring suburbs that report late and if you remember they were responsible for the cliffhanger in 2006 when Democrat Claire McCaskill won her Senate race after midnight.
NORRIS: So Missouri or Missouri, however you say it - that now settled. What about New Mexico?
LIASSON: Still too close to call. They're still counting the provisional ballots. That will either become Obama's fourteenth state or Clinton's ninth. We just don't know yet.
NORRIS: What about the overall delegate count at this point?
LIASSON: Well, it's hard to say. There are so many ways of counting because the Democratic process of delegate allocation is so complicated. But the Associated Press, which is our standard, says that so far Clinton has a thousand delegates, Obama has 902. That's counting superdelegates, the elected officials and party bigwigs who are not pledged or committed. So that puts Obama within the magic number of a hundred that most people would consider striking distance of Clinton. And I think you have to say that by any measure, Clinton did not dominate yesterday. Not by delegates, not by states, or by the popular vote. They each got about 7.3 million votes. They were only about one-third of 1 percentage point apart. And here is what Barack Obama had to say today about how he did yesterday.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): The Clinton camp's basic attitude was that the whole calendar was set up to deliver the knock-out blow on February 5th. And not only did we play them to a draw, we won more delegates and we won more states. What that means then is that we are in a fierce competition and we've got a lot more - many more rounds to fight.
LIASSON: Now Senator Barack Obama said he had won more delegates. That's still unclear. But here's what Senator Clinton said this afternoon.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): We had a great - a great night last night with victories across the country. Ending up, once again, with, you know, a total of more votes and more delegates.
NORRIS: So, again, the back and forth on the delegates on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, a good deal more clarity.
LIASSON: Yes. According to the Associated Press, John McCain now has almost 60 percent of what he needs to clinch the nomination. He has about 703 delegates; Mitt Romney has 260; Mike Huckabee has 190. So McCain has more than twice what Romney has, more than three times what Huckabee has.
It's interesting though, McCain got only 3 and a half million votes yesterday. So the entire Republican field got only about 500,000 more votes than either Obama or Clinton. So you can see how turnout is really favoring the Democrats. But John McCain still has a lot of issues to resolve within his own party. He is in the driver's seat. It's hard to see a path for Romney or Huckabee. But tomorrow, you're going to see Romney try to find a path. He's going to be speaking at CPAC, the Conservative Public - Political Action Conference - so is McCain. Romney is going to be trying to light a grassroots fire among conservatives against McCain. The problem is, is that in the primaries so far, conservatives are choosing Huckabee, which only helps McCain.
NORRIS: I just want to clarify something. Is John McCain close enough to that magic number? Is he past the halfway point so that it would be mathematically impossible for anyone to catch him?
LIASSON: It's not mathematically impossible but Romney would have to run the table. He will have to win absolutely everything else. And that seems impossible if not mathematically impossible.
NORRIS: And just reaching back for the Democrats - to the Democrats for just a minute and this back and forth between Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama, what about John Edwards' delegates?
LIASSON: John Edwards has some delegates. I would have to go look up exactly how many, but the point is he does have delegates. He hasn't endorsed yet. He could throw his delegates to one or the other.
NORRIS: Thank you, Mara. That was NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
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