NPR News Special: Analysis of March 4 Primaries Arizona Sen. John McCain swept Tuesday's GOP primaries, earning enough delegates to secure his party's nomination. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed a turnaround for her Democratic campaign based on wins in Texas and Ohio.

NPR News Special: Analysis of March 4 Primaries

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Wins by Sen. John McCain led Mike Huckabee to drop out, while Sen. Hillary Clinton cut into Sen. Barack Obama's lead. Getty Images/AP hide caption

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Arizona Sen. John McCain swept Tuesday's GOP primaries, earning enough delegates to secure his party's nomination. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed a turnaround for her Democratic campaign based on wins in Texas and Ohio.

Host Neal Conan and NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving discuss the results of Tuesday's presidential contests, and campaign managers for Clinton, Obama and McCain discuss how the campaigns have changed over the course of the election. Also, former Congresswoman and 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro weighs in on the influence of the super delegation.

Guests:

Maggie Williams, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton

David Plouffe, campaign manager for Barack Obama

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain

Geraldine Ferraro, former Congresswoman and 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate

Scott Reed, Republican strategist; former executive director of the Republican National Committee; campaign manager for Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996

Key Wins for Clinton; McCain Clinches GOP Race

NPR Special Coverage Hour 1

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NPR Special Coverage Hour 2

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Arizona Sen. John McCain swept Tuesday's GOP primaries, earning enough delegates to secure his party's nomination, while Democratic New York Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed a campaign turnaround based on twin victories in the key states of Texas and Ohio.

Clinton added a third win in Rhode Island, dropping only the smallest contest of the night, in Vermont. And she put an emphatic end to talk that she might pull out of the race.

"The people of Ohio have said it loudly and clearly — we're going on, we're going strong and we're going all the way," Clinton told supporters in Columbus, Ohio.

But it was not clear how much her best night since Super Tuesday would net Clinton in delegates, in part because Texas Democrats also held caucuses after the primary that will allocate about one-third of their 193 delegates to the national convention.

Democratic rules also distributed the delegate dividend in Ohio, so that even winning a majority did not entitle Clinton to much more than a bare majority of the 141 delegates at stake in the Buckeye State.

So despite Clinton's big night, the dent in Obama's delegate lead might not amount to much. He began the day leading in pledged delegates by more than 150. Clinton's wins seemed to cost him about 20, but the outcome of the Texas caucuses had the potential to cut his loss substantially. The delegate distribution effect was one reason. Some observers said Clinton needed not only to win in Ohio and Texas, but to win big.

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and TV Networks showed that Clinton managed to reduce Obama's potential vote over the past week by ratcheting up her attacks on his experience level. In Texas, close to 6 in 10 voters who picked their candidate within the last week chose Clinton. She also regained her earlier margins among white men, lower-income households and voters with less than a college education.

Exit polls also showed Hispanics casting 30 percent of the Texas Democratic primary vote, giving Clinton nearly two-thirds of their votes and giving her once again the domination she had enjoyed among Hispanic voters in California, New York and New Jersey on Super Tuesday.

Speaking to supporters in Ohio after she had declared victory, Clinton dedicated her March 4 wins to everyone who has ever been "counted out but refused to be knocked out."

While Clinton's victory speech focused on the fate of her party's nomination, McCain turned his attention toward national security and the role it could play in the general election. "I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime," he told supporters in Texas. "The next president of the United States must encourage our allies to fight against al-Qaida."

McCain's chief rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, withdrew from the race, telling his supporters that he promised to work to unite the party.

Earlier in the night, Obama won the Democratic contest in Vermont, which offered 15 delegates, the smallest prize on March 4. Vermont residents told exit pollsters that the Iraq war was the largest issue for them, since the state, per capita, has the greatest number of deaths from the war. Clinton voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq in 2002.

Before the results of the Texas primary were known, Obama addressed supporters in San Antonio, telling them, "We can stand up with confidence and clarity. We are on our way to winning this nomination."

The Obama campaign has argued that, even with Clinton's wins in Ohio and Texas, it is mathematically impossible for her to erase the lead in the pledged delegate count that he built by winning 12 consecutive contests (including Vermont on March 4). Clinton would have to win a big majority among the superdelegates — the roughly 800 officeholders and party officials who act as free agents and who can support a candidate regardless of the popular vote in their state.

Exit polls showed that Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island voters were overwhelmingly concerned with the economy. The Democratic candidates focused on the issue as they slipped mentions of home foreclosures into stump speeches and fought over who had supported NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which blue-collar workers blame for the loss of manufacturing jobs.

For Democrat Noreen Jones in Cleveland, the economy played a major role in her decision to support Clinton, whom she saw as a more experienced candidate.

"The jobs, the war and taxes — that's it. As a country, we got troubles. There comes a time when something has to be done," Jones said.

But not all Cleveland voters felt that way. Voter Daryl Manning works for the city and has two children in the city's public schools. He voted for Obama because he said he wants change.

"The idea of him just stepping up and looking for something different was a good thing," Manning said. "There have always been Bushes and Clintons."

For other voters, issues such as foreign policy loomed larger than the candidates' resumes. San Antonio voter Donna Barron, who described herself as a military brat, supported McCain.

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan matter. We need to stay there and finish our job," she said.

McCain plans to kick off his general election campaign Wednesday morning in Florida — a key swing state in November. Then, he is scheduled to visit President Bush in Washington, D.C., to receive the president's blessing as the presumptive GOP nominee.

The Democrats will continue to battle for the nomination and the favor of the superdelegates. Wyoming holds Democratic caucuses on March 8, and Mississippi holds its primary on March 11. The next big state voting will be Pennsylvania, which will hold its primary April 22.

Voters Speak: Voices from the March 4 Primaries

Voters in four states headed to the polls Tuesday in large numbers, knowing that the results could be pivotal in both the Democratic and Republican presidential races.

NPR asked voters in three of the states — Ohio, Texas and Vermont — which candidate they supported and why. Voters also went to the polls in Rhode Island.

Ben Reavis

Ben Reavis
Nishant Dahiya, NPR

Ben Reavis, Dallas, Texas

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Reavis typically votes for Republicans but has opted to support a Democrat in this primary. He likes both McCain and Obama, he says, because neither falls in line with his party's views.

Daryl Manning

Daryl Manning
David Barnett, For NPR

Daryl Manning, Cleveland, Ohio

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Manning is registered as a Democrat and says he wants a candidate to focus on the economy and education. In this primary, he supported the candidate who he thought most represented change. He says the country has had enough of the Bushes and Clintons.

Ruth and John Ziske

Ziske
Ross Sneyd, For NPR

Ruth and John Ziske, Barre, Vermont

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The Ziskes voted Republican. They told NPR they wanted someone with experience — both as a politician and in Washington, D.C. They also said they believe the Republicans have better ideas than the Democrats.

Wayne Garcia

Wayne Garcia
Nishant Dahiya, NPR

Wayne Garcia, Dallas, Texas

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Like many voters, Wayne Garcia says he is looking for change. For him, that would mean voting a woman into the White House.

Beth Walter

Beth Walter
Terry Gildea, For NPR

Beth Walter, San Antonio, Texas

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Beth Walters is pleased by both Democratic candidates. As a physician, she says, she is particularly interested in the candidates' universal health care plans.

Roy Metcalf

Roy MetCalf
Nishant Dahiya, NPR

Roy Metcalf, Dallas, Texas

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Roy Metcalf voted Democratic because he wants to see a change in Washington. He says he feels disillusioned with politics now and does not want to elect another political insider.

Noreen Jones

Noreen Jones
David Barnett, For NPR

Noreen Jones, Cleveland, Ohio

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Jones says she feels energized by this primary and that every vote counts. Issues such as the economy and education lead her to support New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Linda Champany

Linda
Ross Sneyd, For NPR

Linda Champany, Barre, Vermont

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Champany identifies herself as a Christian and says she wants to elect a politician who will bring godly principles back to the country.

Jeff Harwell

Jeff Harwell
Nishant Dahiya, NPR

Jeff Harwell, Dallas, Texas

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Harwell is a Republican, who voted in the Democratic primary because he would rather see Arizona Sen. John McCain run against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Aladin Gohar

Aladin Gohar, Columbus, Ohio

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Gohar is registered as an independent but voted Democratic in this primary. He wants change, particularly with regard to the war, and says he likes Obama's message of hope.

Donna Barron

Donna Barron, San Antonio, Texas

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Donna Barron describes herself as a military brat who wants a candidate who is strong on foreign policy, including the Iraq war and Afghanistan.

Reporting done by David C. Barnett, Nishant Dahiya, Terry Gildea, Ross Sneyd and Evie Stone. Produced by Nancy Cook, Josh Figueira and Laurel Wamsley.