McCain expands lead; Democrats stuck in deadlock

For the Democrats, Tuesday was again a battle between change and experience, while the Republicans attempted to choose between party purity and viability in November.

Proportional voting for the Democrats assured that no candidate would emerge from Tuesday with the nomination. Because of the winner-take-all style in many Republican states, a nominee could have been chosen, but one was not.

Months ago, Super Tuesday was supposed to be the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, since no candidate could match her name recognition or political machine. It ended up proving that the Democratic nomination will be won after a protracted war, as the delegates were split almost evenly.

Barack Obama's surge leading into Tuesday didn't amount to upsets in California, Massachusetts or New Jersey, but it did give him surprise wins in Connecticut and Missouri.

The withdrawal of Edwards created an opening for Obama with white males, which based on Tuesday's results he took advantage of. Key endorsements also served to cut his margins of defeat in Clinton's strongholds, which is essential when delegates are assigned proportionally, and helped him steal a few of the Hispanic voters that Clinton had a stranglehold on.

Clinton was able to hold the line against Obama with steadfast female support, and a well-run political machine that was better prepared to handle the short transition time between South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Clinton is now trying to run out the clock until the convention, but a huge fundraising month in January by Obama, the gradual pace of the upcoming primaries, Obama's strength as a national candidate, and the encouraging results of Tuesday all seem to indicate that Obama is in the best shape to make a big play to win the nomination.

John McCain went into Tuesday as the reluctant Republican frontrunner. Three big wins gave him the delegate lead, which along with high profile endorsements had given him momentum coming into Tuesday.

McCain's momentum has encouraged criticism from Republicans that viewed his candidacy as a win for the liberal wing of their party. Mitt Romney embraced this divide, but it has still failed to show results, as McCain won six closed states on Tuesday, including California and New York. The problem for McCain is that while he may have emerged as the big delegate winner and presumptive nominee, he didn't win a mandate to put the Republican Party back together again, a mandate he was denied after evangelical voters in the South voted for party purity over viability.

In the South, Mike Huckabee was supposed to serve as the spoiler to Romney, which would give McCain a plurality in many states. Huckabee didn't get this memo, as he won five Southern states. This doesn't give new life to Huckabee's campaign, which is way behind in delegates, but it does discredit the idea that he was the only thing standing in Romney's way.

As for Romney, who has promised to keep campaigning, he delivered the bare minimum he needed to be able to hold his head up. His campaign is all but dead, as it is now clear Republicans voters weren't buying conservative values from a Massachusetts Mormon.

McCain has a tough road leading up to the general election as it seems he'll be Shepard to a divided flock. He'll win the nomination without the far right, but he can't win in November without them, unless he builds a new coalition of voters. McCain needs to be a uniter, and not a divider to become President, which means he's left with deciding who to leave behind.