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Obama takes clear Maine victory

Illinois Senator Barack Obama has won the Democratic caucus in Maine, defeating Hillary Clinton.
The Maine victory tops a weekend of gains by Mr Obama in the battle for the party's presidential nomination.

On Saturday, Mr Obama won polls in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington state and the US Virgin Islands.

The clean sweep of all five weekend contests puts him almost neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in their deadlocked nomination battle.

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton has appointed a new campaign manager after this weekend's setbacks.

Maggie Williams, who was the New York senator's chief of staff when her husband was serving as US president, will take over from Patty Doyle, who has decided to step down.

Campaign aides said Ms Doyle's decision was not urged upon her by Mrs Clinton or any senior members of her team, the Associated Press reports.

Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton now head into a series of contests on Tuesday: Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Across Maine on Sunday, Democrats in 420 cities and towns braved harsh winds and snowfall to turn out in heavy numbers for the state-wide caucuses.

They were deciding how the state's 24 delegates will be allotted at August's Democratic party national convention.

Mr Obama is now projected to pick up 15 delegates, with the remaining nine going to Mrs Clinton.

Presidential backing

On the Republican side, President Bush has described the party's front-runner, John McCain, as a true conservative.

The presidential vote of confidence comes despite continuing criticisms from leading party members who have questioned the Arizona senator's conservative credentials.

Although Mr McCain won primary polling in Washington state on Saturday, correspondents say the Arizona senator still has some work to do to unite his party, as Mike Huckabee won in Kansas and Louisiana.

Mr Huckabee and third-placed Ron Paul have been coming under pressure to step aside for the sake of party unity.

But Mr Huckabee said on Saturday that he had no intention of pulling out.

Mr McCain has a wide lead with 719 delegates to Mr Huckabee's 234 and Mr Paul's 14.

Mr Romney's suspended campaign still has 298 delegates.

On the Democratic side, Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are facing the prospect of a long drawn-out battle after neither was able to deliver a knock-out blow in Super Tuesday's 22 state contests.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama are practically level, each halfway to winning the 2,025 delegates needed to secure victory at the Democratic party convention in August.

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Added: Feb-11-2008 
By: Mr Pig
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