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Clinton takes California in tight Democratic Super Tuesday race

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic presidential contenders split the night's early contests
  • Obama claims most Midwestern states and Clinton dominates the Northeast
  • Democrats in 22 states go to polls, with 40-plus percent of delegates at stake
  • Obama, Clinton, spent combined $21 million on TV advertising in past 2 weeks
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(CNN) -- New York Sen. Hillary Clinton claimed the biggest prize of Super Tuesday's Democratic primaries with a win in California, CNN projected, while Sen. Barack Obama rode high in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states.

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Voters walk in and out of a polling place in Savannah, Georgia, on Tuesday.

Clinton took a strong early lead in California, with exit polls finding extensive support for the former first lady from women, Latino voters and blue-collar Democrats concerned about the economy. A total of 441 Democratic delegates will be chosen from the state, divided proportionally under party rules.

More than four-fifths of the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination were at stake in contests across 24 states and American Samoa, but neither candidate appeared to land a knockout blow.

California -- where 441 Democratic delegates will be chosen -- was the biggest prize of the night, and exit polls indicated a close race between Clinton and Obama there. As polls closed on the West Coast, Clinton congratulated Obama and said the campaign would go on.

Clinton, the former first lady, was forecast to win her home state and neighboring New Jersey -- as well as Massachusetts, where the state's two senators and governor had endorsed Obama.

"I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debates about how to leave this country better off for the next generation, because that is the work of my life," Clinton told supporters at her headquarters in New York, Tuesday night. Watch Sen. Clinton talk to her supporters

CNN projected Clinton would win her home state of New York and neighboring New Jersey -- as well as Massachusetts, where the state's two senators and governor had endorsed Obama.

She also was forecast to win primaries in Arkansas, where her husband was governor for more than a decade, and neighboring Oklahoma and Tennessee.

But CNN projected Obama would win two Deep South states, Alabama and Georgia, with overwhelming African-American support despite early endorsements of Clinton by many black officials. And he won caucuses across Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states with mostly white populations -- Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota and Kansas.

Obama also was projected to win primaries in Utah, Delaware, Connecticut and Illinois, which sent him to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

"The votes are still being counted in cities and towns across America," Obama told supporters in Chicago. "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."

Despite the large number of contests, the Democrats award delegates based on a proportion of the vote -- so Tuesday's primaries and caucuses were less decisive than in the Republican races, where many states awarded delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Video Watch how the delegates will be assigned »

Exit polls showed Obama beating Clinton by more than 2-to-1 margin in Georgia, while Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, held a lopsided lead over Obama in Oklahoma. View what is at stake on Super Tuesday »

As in South Carolina, African-American voters made up just over half the turnout in Georgia's Democratic primary -- and exit polls indicated that Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant father and a white mother, took about 80 percent of that vote. And his nearly 40 percent showing among white voters was an improvement over South Carolina, where native son John Edwards was also in the mix.

Edwards dropped out of the Democratic race last week following a string of third-place showings.

"I dare say this is not going to be over certainly tonight, and maybe not for a month from now," Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean told CNN.

While Clinton had racked up a string of wins in populous states, "She's not taking them convincingly," said David Gergen, a former adviser to the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

"She won New York by 15 points. Barack Obama won Illinois by 30 -- his own home state," Gergen said. "So it's closer in the delegate camp, but she is moving. You get the sense their wagon is continuing to roll."

Clinton and Obama split the party's early contests, with Obama winning the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary and Clinton taking the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses. Clinton also won primaries in Florida and Michigan, but those states were stripped of their delegates for moving their primaries up in defiance of the national Democratic Party.

Each of the surviving candidates has raised more than $100 million to date, and they spent a combined $21 million on television advertising in the past two weeks, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN's consultant on political ad spending. Obama spent about $12 million since January 21, said Evan Tracey, CMAG's chief operating officer.

"He is putting his money to work," Tracey said. "He has turned up the volume, not only in the February 5th states but beyond."

Clinton voted in her adopted hometown of Chappaqua, New York, where she was joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea. Video Watch Clinton cast her ballot »

"The stakes are huge for our country, a lot of big challenges, but America's up to it," Clinton said after casting her vote. "We just need a president who's ready on day one to turn the economy around and become commander-in-chief and get our country back on the right track."

Clinton's campaign played down the Georgia result, saying it did not seriously contest the state while Obama had a longstanding lead and spent half a million dollars on television ads there.

But Clinton had the support of much of Georgia's black political establishment, including former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and veteran congressman John Lewis -- onetime lieutenants of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. -- and both she and her husband made campaign appearances there last week.

Clinton, meanwhile, talked up her projected victory in Massachusetts. Obama got a late surge endorsement from Sen. Edward Kennedy; he also had the support of the state's other senator, John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, and Gov. Deval Patrick.

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Her campaign said the results show Clinton can show strength in places Obama "was expected to win." But Obama spokesman Bill Burton on Massachusetts pointed out that the Illinois senator trailed Clinton by more than 30 points in late January.

"We're happy for a close result," Burton said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Candy Crowley, Suzanne Malveaux and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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