Nev. caucuses over, GOP night continues
( AP )- Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama split the spoils in the Nevada caucuses Saturday night, a race marred by late charges of dirty politics. John McCain and Mike Huckabee dueled for victory in a hard-fought Republican primary in South Carolina.
"I guess this is how the West was won," Clinton told cheering supporters in Las Vegas. She captured the popular vote, but Obama edged her out for national convention delegates at stake, taking 13 to her 12.
If the Democrats had co-front-runners, the Republicans had none, and South Carolina looked like the place that might at least begin winnowing the field.
Interviews with voters leaving their polling places indicated that McCain and Huckabee appeared to be dividing the Republican vote evenly. As was his custom, McCain was winning the independent vote.
South Carolina was the second half of a GOP campaign doubleheader, coming after Nevada's caucuses.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the winner there, rolling up roughly half the vote in a multi-candidate field.
Obama , who won the kickoff Iowa caucuses less than a month ago, issued a statement that said he had conducted an "honest, uplifting campaign ... that appealed to people's hopes instead of their fears."
His campaign manager, David Plouffe , was far more pointed in a written statement that accused the Clinton campaign of "an entire week's worth of false, divisive attacks designed to mislead caucus-goers and discredit the caucus itself."
Whatever the hard feelings, Clinton told supporters they would fade by the fall general election campaign. "We will all be united in November," she said, as the crowd chanted "HRC, HRC."
Interviews with Democratic caucus-goers indicated that Clinton fashioned her victory by winning about half the votes cast by whites, and two-thirds support from Hispanics, many members of a Culinary Workers Union that had endorsed Obama . He won about 80 percent of the black vote.
Obama , the most viable black presidential candidate in history, had pinned his Nevada hopes on an outpouring of support from the 60,000-member union. But it appeared that turnout was lighter than expected at nine caucuses established along the Las Vegas Strip, and some attending held signs reading, "I support my union. I support Hillary."
Democrats looked next to South Carolina to choose between Obama , the most viable black candidate in history, and Clinton, seeking to become the first woman to occupy the White House. The state is home to thousands of black voters, who are expected to comprise as much as half the Democratic electorate.
After that, the race goes national, with more than 20 states holding primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5, with 1,678 national Democratic convention delegates at stake.
Romney was not expecting much success in South Carolina. The former Massachusetts governor learned of his Nevada victory when his wife Ann announced it on the public address system of his chartered jet. "Keep ' em coming. Keep ' em coming," he said.
Romney had campaigned for months to win early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and his candidacy was in trouble when he lost both. He retooled his appeal to the voters in the days leading to the Michigan primary, though, focusing on the economy and trumpeting his experience as a businessman.
En route to Florida, he presented reporters with his ambitious economic stimulus plan, $233 billion in all. It includes tax rebates as well as tax cuts for individuals, as well as tax cuts for businesses.
Nevada Republicans said the economy and illegal immigration were their top concerns, according to a survey of voters entering the caucuses. Romney led among voters who cited both issues.
Mormons gave Romney about half his votes. He is hoping to become the first member of his faith to win the White House. Alone among the Republican contenders, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas aired television ads in Nevada.
Nearly complete returns showed Romney winning more than 50 percent of the vote, with Paul and McCain far behind vying for second. Former Thompson and Huckabee trailed.
Romney also won at least 17 of the 31 Republican National Convention delegates at stake. McCain and Paul won at least four apiece, while Thompson and Huckabee each won two. California Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rudy Giuliani each won one delegate - the first of the campaign for the former New York mayor.
Nevada offered more delegates - 31 versus 24 - but far less appeal to the Republican candidates than South Carolina, a primary that has gone to the party's eventual nominee every four years since 1980.
That made it a magnet for Thompson, who staked his candidacy on a strong showing, as well as for Romney, McCain and Huckabee .
McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, appealed to a large population of military veterans in South Carolina, and stressed his determination to rein in federal spending as he worked to avenge a bitter defeat in the 2000 primary.
Huckabee reached out to evangelical Christian voters, hoping to rebound from a string of disappointing showings since his victory in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
Romney campaigned on a pledge to help restore the state's economy, much as he did in winning Michigan.
In South Carolina, the economy and immigration were cited as top issues, with more than half the voters saying illegal immigrants should be deported. Conservatives and white evangelical voters turned out in heavy numbers, according to the polling place interviews.
Survey data in both states were from polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
South Carolina primary voters coped with equipment difficulty and bad weather. Election officials in the area around Myrtle Beach brought out paper ballots after some electronic voting machines failed to work properly. Snow fell in the northern part of the state, which has little snow removal equipment.