WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton marched across the country Tuesday, winning a string of key battleground states — notably the day's biggest prize, California — with a coalition of women, older voters and moderates, but Barack Obama nearly matched her with his own series of victories.
Although Obama increasingly had drawn big, enthusiastic crowds across the nation, the New York senator showed impressive breadth in winning her home state and the biggest battles, in California, New Jersey, Arizona and Massachusetts, while rolling through Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Missouri, which had been called for Clinton earlier in the night, was pulled back as too close to call near 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Obama, though, wouldn't fade, as the Illinois senator won states with large black voting blocs — Georgia, Alabama and Delaware — while taking primaries in his home state, Utah and Connecticut as well as caucuses in North Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Idaho, Alaska and Colorado.
The results mean that the Clinton-Obama duel will continue for weeks and possibly months. Both campaigns stressed Tuesday night that they were ready to battle later this week in Louisiana and Nebraska, which hold contests Saturday, then on to Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia next Tuesday _and perhaps all the way to the August convention.
Obama told cheering supporters in Chicago, "The polls are just closing in California and the votes are still being counted in cities and towns across America, but there is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know. Our time has come. Our movement is real and change is coming to America."
Clinton's triumph in California was typical of her victories throughout the evening. Fifty-four percent of the voters were women, according to exit polls, and they gave her an 18-point edge. She also beat Obama by 2 to 1 among Latino voters, who made up 29 percent of the electorate, and did well among voters earning less than $50,000 a year.
She held back from declaring victory Tuesday night when speaking to supporters in New York. Instead, she recited her campaign themes and said: "I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation. That is the work of my life."
Obama did well in states such as Georgia, where more than half the voting population was African-American and went for him by 8 to 1. He got 39 percent of whites. His appeal also followed another familiar pattern: He won the 18- to 29-year-old vote by 77 to 21 percent.
He countered Clinton's win in Massachusetts by taking neighboring Connecticut, where local political leaders tended to rally behind him and brought the state's large liberal community with them.
While winning statewide popular-vote margins carries psychological importance for any candidate, neither Clinton nor Obama expected to gain a significant advantage from final results in the all-important convention-delegate count because of the Democrats' complex system of awarding delegates. It takes 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination, and 1,681 were at stake in 22 Super Tuesday contests.
Neither side wanted to claim victory Tuesday night, and both wanted to look ahead to the remaining contests.
Clinton's top strategist, Mark Penn, was upbeat but cautious, saying "we've seen some encouraging results in some of these early states."
He urged Obama to debate Clinton four times this month, saying "our campaign believes it's critically important we continue the debate between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton," he said.
Obama's camp didn't immediately accept the challenge.
"Our schedule's not going to be dictated by the Clinton campaign," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said.
Obama was hoping that the strengths he'd showed in previous primaries would lead him to win East Coast and Southern states.
Connecticut and Massachusetts have large blocs of liberal voters, as well as voters swayed by the endorsements of the Kennedy family, and blacks make up an estimated 35 percent of Delaware's Democratic vote and about one-fourth of Tennessee's and Alabama's totals.
The voting suggested that the patterns that had been evident throughout the campaign were continuing, as the race between Clinton and Obama has had the same feel in state after state: Clinton does well among older voters and women, while Obama captures younger and minority voters.
Voters younger than 30, in particular, found themselves irked by what they saw as politics as usual.
Obama also benefited from the celebrity culture that younger voters have known all their lives.
"In California, particularly, star power means a lot," said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California. The combination of Obama and supporters Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver at a rally Sunday at the University of California at Los Angeles was powerful celebrity wattage.
Despite that and palpable momentum, Obama couldn't derail Clinton's organizational strength Tuesday. She showed that she had too much support not only from her usual cadre of voters but also from the party establishment.
"Clinton seemed to have the support of every available Latino politician," said Kareem Crayton, assistant professor of law and political science at the University of Southern California, notably Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.