MILWAUKEE — Barack Obama's bandwagon kept rolling Tuesday as he swept to a big Wisconsin primary win over Hillary Clinton, a victory that gives him an important boost as the Democrats head for what may be a final showdown in Ohio and Texas in two weeks.
In the Republican contest, Arizona Sen. John McCain easily beat former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Obama claimed his victory at a rally in Houston , home of NASA, telling a jubilant audience: " Houston, I think we've achieved lift-off here."
Clinton, speaking in Youngstown , Ohio , didn't acknowledge her latest defeat or congratulate Obama. Instead she was highly critical of her rival, saying the election was about "picking a president who relies not just on words, but on work, hard work, to get America back to work."
Obama also won Hawaii’s caucus, making it 10 straight Democratic wins since Feb. 5. In Wisconsin, he rolled up solid majorities among whites, males and young voters — and by splitting the votes of women and the non-college-educated with Clinton, who looks to those last two groups as her base.
Voters were largely unmoved by Clinton's latest efforts to paint herself as the aggrieved worker's friend and to attack Obama for echoing someone else's speech lines. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had 58 percent of the vote to Clinton 's 41 percent.
In Hawaii , where he spent part of his childhood, Obama took 76 percent of the vote to Clinton ’s 24 percent, with all precincts reporting.
With 94 convention delegates at stake in the two states, Obama increased his lead over Clinton. The latest Associated Press count gave him 1,303 delegates to Clinton ’s 1,233. A total of 2,025 are needed to nominate.
McCain declared victory moments after the polls closed. He had no harsh words for Huckabee, whom he beat 55 to 37 percent in Wisconsin, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. But he wasted no time in taking a veiled shot at the Democrat who's now inescapably the front-runner to oppose him in the fall:
"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 said. Obama's crusade for change is the signature issue of his campaign.
"Will the next president have the experience, the judgment experience informs and the strength of purpose to respond to each of these developments in ways that strengthen our security and advance the global progress of our ideals?" McCain asked. "Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan, and sitting down without preconditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?"
McCain should pick up the 56 delegates that were available in Wisconsin and Washington state. Washington 's Tuesday primary was another part of a complex system for picking delegates; the state's GOP held a caucus on Feb. 9, which McCain narrowly won. With 57 percent of the Tuesday Washington vote reporting, McCain led Huckabee, 49 to 22 percent.
He began the day with a total of 908 delegates to Huckabee's 245 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul's 14, meaning McCain can't immediately reach the 1,191 total needed to nominate. He can go over the top on March 4, when 265 delegates will be at stake.
Among Democrats, Obama won a race that had been considered close almost to the end and was viewed as a preview of the crucial March 4 contest in Ohio, which has seen its working classes battered by job losses and foreign competition. Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island voters also go to the polls that day, when 370 delegates are up for grabs. Clinton 's camp has said that Texas and Ohio are must-win states.
Clinton fashioned herself in Wisconsin as a sensitive populist, but she also showed that she's ready to play rough. She tore into Obama in TV ads for refusing to debate, and her staff kept telling the media that Obama deserved scorn for using lines in a speech that were first used by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
But little of this seemed to click with the state's voters.
Exit polls showed Obama winning big among not only his usual supporters — he won nearly three-quarters of the 18-to-29-year-old vote and nine of every 10 votes from African Americans_ but also among whites and in suburban and rural areas. And he got a 2-to-1 advantage from independents, who made up about 28 percent of the Wisconsin vote.
Obama voters routinely said they liked Clinton but were alienated by her negative tone and pleased by Obama's call for change.
"I love both candidates, but I was looking for something different," said LaNell Gill, a Milwaukee teacher.
Arlene Czarnezki, a Milwaukee retiree, said she "really has had a hard time making up my mind," but found that she liked Obama's "energy and ideas."
Linda Morris, an unemployed Milwaukee worker, found that while "I voted for Bill Clinton twice, we need new blood."
Obama was in Texas for his election-night celebration, offering an estimated 20,000 supporters at Houston 's Toyota Center a lengthy speech detailing his views — and reminding supporters that he's still far from being the nominee.
"The change we seek is still months and miles away," he said.
The audience was heavily African-American, shouting, "Yes, we can!" as they waited for Obama and "Si se puede," the Spanish equivalent.
Jose Santoyo, a patient-care assistant munching on chili cheese fries from a concession stand, said he's not political and was a little surprised at himself for attending. He was at first for Clinton , but now, he said, "I'm probably 70 percent for Obama. I'm hearing good things about him."
Clinton spent election night in Youngstown, a battered manufacturing city in eastern Ohio that Obama visited Monday. She said she's been a "doer" for 35 years who can help people out of their economic blues.
"Right now, too many people are struggling," she said. "Working the day shift, the night shift, trying to get by without health care, just one paycheck away from losing their homes. They cannot afford four more years of a president who just doesn't see or hear them."(Lightman reported from Wisconsin, Talev from Houston. William Douglas contributed.)