WASHINGTON - Barack Obama cruised past a fading Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses Tuesday night, gaining the upper hand in a Democratic presidential race for the ages.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks during his rally discussion at the La Plaza De Guadalupe in San Antonio, February 19, 2008. [Agencies]
The twin triumphs made 10 straight for Obama, and left the former first lady in desperate need of a comeback in a race she long commanded as front-runner.
"The change we seek is still months and miles away," Obama told a boisterous crowd in Houston in a speech in which he also pledged to end the war in Iraq in his first year in office.
"I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he declared.
Sen. John McCain, the Republican front-runner, won a pair of primaries, in Wisconsin and Washington, to continue his march toward certain nomination.
In a race growing increasingly negative, Obama cut deeply into Clinton's political bedrock in Wisconsin, splitting the support of white women almost evenly with her. According to polling place interviews, he also ran well among working class voters in the blue collar battleground that was prelude to primaries in the larger industrial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Clinton made no mention of her defeat, and showed no sign of surrender in an appearance in Youngstown, Ohio.
"Both Senator Obama and I would make history," the New York senator said. "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. Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice."
In a clear sign of their relative standing in the race, most cable television networks abruptly cut away from coverage of Clinton's rally when Obama began to speak in Texas.
McCain easily won the Republican primary in Wisconsin with 55 percent of the vote, dispatching former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and edging closer to the 1,191 delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination at the party convention in St. Paul, Minn. next summer. The Arizona senator also won the primary in Washington, where 19 delegates were at stake, with 49 percent of the vote in incomplete results.
In scarcely veiled criticism of Obama, the Republican nominee-in-waiting said, "I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure that Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change."
McCain's nomination has been assured since Super Tuesday three weeks ago, as first one, then another of his former rivals has dropped out and the party establishment has closed ranks behind him.
Not so in the Democratic race, where Obama and Clinton campaign seven days a week, he the strongest black presidential candidate in history, she bidding to become the first woman to sit in the White House.
Ohio and Texas vote next on March 4 - 370 convention delegates in all - and even some of Clinton's supporters concede she must win one, and possibly both, to remain competitive. Two smaller states, Vermont and Rhode Island, also have primaries that day.
With the votes counted in all but one of Wisconsin's 3,570 precincts, Obama won 58 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Clinton.
With more than 70 percent of the vote counted in Hawaii, Obama was winning 75 percent to 24 percent for Clinton.
Wisconsin offered 74 national convention delegates. There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii, where Obama spent much of his youth.