No end in sight for this marathon campaign

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The Independent US

Super Tuesday is not the Super Bowl. The final whistle was set to blow with the closing of polls in California at 8pm (4am GMT) last night, but does America wake up this morning with clear losers and winners? Possibly, but more likely not.

With primaries and caucuses in so many states – 43 contests in 24 states – yesterday had long been advertised as the moment when clarity for both parties would finally prevail. Yet it is unlikely we should be so lucky.

This has become a race to accumulate delegates to the nominating conventions in the summer. For Democrats, more than half of all delegates were up for grabs yesterday. Yet, looking at the delegate totals captured by each of the candidates, that may not be enough.

Neither will we be able to resist counting how many states each candidate captured. For example, a win in California might have been enough to persuade Mr Romney to stay in the race, even with Mr McCain winning the majority of delegates.

Likewise, the spinning by both Democrat rivals on the significance of the results is certain to be dizzying. The Obama camp was suggesting it will be content to come behind the Hillary camp, but not by too much.

The Republicans at least help us with electoral rules that are more or less comprehensible. The winner in most key states takes all of its delegates. The Democrats, as is their way, have concocted far more obscure proportional rules. Come second in a state and still you can collect large numbers of delegates.

"None of us really understands what the impact of all these contests on one day will be for any of us," Mrs Clinton told ABC. On NBC, Mr Obama echoed her: "No matter what happens, though, we are probably going to see a split decision tonight."

Mr Obama does have the advantage of looking forward to primaries next Tuesday in places where he is looking strong: Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. On 4 March, two important states, Texas and Ohio, hold their primaries.

"The nominating battle is likely going to continue past [Super Tuesday's] voting," said Mrs Clinton's campaign manager Howard Wolfson. Hold on to your hats.

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