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Obama Wins Again; McCain Cements Status

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain greets supporters during a campaign rally at the Hayes Grand Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.
Mark Lyons / Getty Images
Getty Images
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain greets supporters during a campaign rally at the Hayes Grand Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has scored an industrial-strength win in the Wisconsin primary. Along with his expected victory in the Hawaiian caucuses, Obama will have extended his winning streak to 10 since Super Tuesday.

The Wisconsin victory is especially important for Obama, who drew strong support from working-class voters and all but erased Hillary Clinton's advantage with women.

By the time the Wisconsin votes were counted, Obama and Clinton were looking ahead to the next round of contests in Texas and Ohio.

Obama celebrated his Wisconsin victory more than 1,000 miles south, with a boisterous rally at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

"Houston, I think we've achieved liftoff here," he said to cheers.

The win in Wisconsin adds a booster rocket to Obama's bandwagon, which has been on a roll ever since Feb. 5. According to exit polls, the Illinois Senator not only won the young, well-educated voters who've backed him elsewhere. He also nearly matched Hillary Clinton among female voters in Wisconsin. And he did well with union members, lower-income voters, and those without a college education.

Al Omick used to work for a company making beer and soft drink containers. The West Milwaukee retiree says he voted for Obama because of his plan for cracking down on lobbyists.

"With all the money that they're taking, we don't have a solid vote. And if we don't get Obama in there, we'll just go back into what we have been for the last 25 years," Omick said.

Obama also beat Clinton among Wisconsin voters who say the economy is their biggest concern. That could be a sign of what's to come in other big industrial states, where people are worried about the loss of manufacturing jobs. Tuesday night, Obama was thinking about Ohio, which holds its primary in two weeks.

"There are workers in Youngstown, Ohio, who have watched job after job after job disappear because of bad trade deals like NAFTA," he said. "(Workers) who've worked in factories for 20 years and then one day they come in and literally see the equipment unbolted from the floor and sent to China."

Clinton was in Youngstown, Tuesday night. She offered supporters there a preview of a speech she'll give Wednesday.

"I want to talk to you about the choice you have in this election. And why that choice matters. It is about picking a president who relies not just on words but on work — on hard work to get America back to work. That's our goal," she said.

The Clinton campaign is counting on winning in Ohio and Texas, and a spokesman said Tuesday he doesn't think the Wisconsin results will change that. He noted there are two weeks and two debates before the contests in those states, and a lot can happen between now and then. Still, after losing 10 races in a row, Clinton is trying hard to find a chink in Obama's political armor.

"Both Sen. Obama and I would make history. But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans," she said.

Clinton has said repeatedly that she can deliver "solutions" while Obama offers only speeches. Obama countered Tuesday night saying while it will take more than "rousing speeches" to deliver change, it will take more than policy papers and Web sites, too.

Both Obama and Clinton have begun to campaign not only against each other, but also against Republican John McCain. The Arizona Senator took a step closer to formalizing the GOP nomination yesterday, winning the Republican primary in Wisconsin.

McCain told supporters in Waukesha County yesterday he respects Republican rival Mike Huckabee, but added the party must be united.

"We're going to face a tough competitor" no matter who the Democratic nominee is, he said. "And we're going to have to work. And the state of Wisconsin is going to be a key swing state. I'll be back. And we will carry the state of Wisconsin in the November election."

McCain had a better than usual showing in Wisconsin among voters who called themselves "conservatives" and "loyal Republicans." Those who called themselves "independents" chose to vote in the more competitive Democratic primary by a margin of 2 to 1.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.