McCain wins big; Clinton, Obama split

.WASHINGTON (AP) – John McCain’s string of cross-country victories put him on the brink of being unstoppable – and showed his appeal across all segments of the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton captured needed states Tuesday night – including the brass ring of California – even as Barack Obama ate into her traditional base of support on a topsy-turvy night where ballot victories were not the only measure of success.

In what amounted to a national primary – or maybe a national semifinal – 24 states held primaries or caucuses, the Republicans with 1,023 delegates at stake in 21 contests and the Democrats with 1,681 at stake in 22, plus American Samoa.

McCain won 395 delegates to 107 for Romney and 98 for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in incomplete results.Clinton led with 354 delegates to Obama’s 313 in incomplete results. Overall, that gave Clinton 615 delegates, to 515 for Obama, with 2,025 delegates required to claim the nomination in Denver at this summer’s convention.

And the candidates themselves made for a remarkable tableau: The last standing included a woman, a black man, a Mormon, a one-time prisoner of war and a Baptist minister.

The open field – the first since 1952 in which the ballots were missing a sitting president or vice president – had voters plotting some mindbending hypothetical strategies.

In Grayslake, Ill., where voting took place in a restored barn, Steve Greenberg couldn’t decide between Obama and Clinton – so he went with McCain.

“If the Democrats lost, I’d be more comfortable with him,” he said.

For Jamelle Chadwick, a stay-at-home mother in Sandy, Utah, Romney’s Mormonism made the difference.

“The standards are important in leadership, like integrity, honesty and hard work,” she said, adding that Romney’s experience is another plus. “He knows how to solve problems.”

Others were conflicted mere minutes before casting ballots.

Outside a public school in Brooklyn, Carolyn Grant knew she wanted a Democrat to “clean up the mess” left by President George W. Bush but could not decide which one. She sipped coffee and said her head ached. Ultimately, she went with Obama.