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Conservatives propel Huckabee to a comfortable win in Kansas.

Sen. Barack Obama won caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state and captured the Louisiana primary Saturday, slicing into Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's slender delegate lead in their historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands with nearly 90 percent of the vote.

He was winning roughly two-thirds of the vote in Washington state and Nebraska, and he won enough votes in Louisiana to deny the former first lady a victory on Saturday.

As the Democratic race moved into a new, post-Super Tuesday phase, Sen. John McCain flunked his first ballot test since becoming the Republican nominee-in-waiting. He lost Kansas caucuses to Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, got nearly 60 percent of the caucus vote a few hours after telling conservatives in Washington, "I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them." He won all 36 delegates at stake.

Obama was winning nearly 70 percent support in Nebraska, compared with 31 percent for Clinton, in caucuses with 24 delegates at stake.

Clinton made no mention of the night's contests as she appeared at a Democratic Party dinner in Virginia, site of one of three primaries on Tuesday.

Instead, she criticized McCain. "We have tried it President Bush's way," she said, "and now the Republicans have chosen more of the same."

She left quickly after her speech, departing before Obama's scheduled arrival. But his supporters made their presence known, as chants of "Obama" floated up from the audience as she made her way offstage.

In all, the Democrats scrapped for 161 delegates in the night's contests.

Clinton began the day with a slender delegate lead in the Associated Press count. She had 1,055 delegates to 998 for Obama. A total of 2,025 is required to win the nomination at the national convention in Denver.

Romney 'wins'

McCain cleared his path to the party nomination last week with a string of Super Tuesday victories that drove former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the race. McCain spent the rest of the week trying to reassure skeptical conservatives, at the same time party leaders quickly closed ranks behind him.

His Kansas defeat aside, McCain also suffered a symbolic defeat when Romney edged him out in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting across town from the White House.

The day's contests opened a new phase in the Democratic race between Clinton, attempting to become the first woman in the White House, and Obama, hoping to become the first black.

The Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 22 states, which once looked likely to effectively settle the race, instead produced a near-equal delegate split.

That left Obama and Clinton facing the likelihood of a grind-it-out competition lasting into spring - if not to the summer convention itself.

People were turned away from a University of Maine student center Saturday morning as Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd of about 1,750 people. She urged supporters to participate in today's caucuses in that state.

"This is your chance to be part of helping Maine pick a president," she said. "So I hope even if you've never, ever caucused before, tomorrow will be your first time ... because there is so much at stake in this election."

Obama, also campaigning in Maine, looked ahead to the general election, criticizing McCain without mentioning his Democratic rival.

McCain initially "stood up to George Bush and opposed his first cuts," Obama said at Nicky's Diner in Bangor. Now the GOP senator is calling for continuing those tax cuts, which grant significant breaks to high-income taxpayers, "in his rush to embrace the worst of the Bush legacy."

The television ad wars continued unabated.

Obama has been airing commercials for more than a week in television markets serving every state that has a contest though Feb 19.

Clinton began airing ads midweek in Washington state, Maine and Nebraska, and added Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Friday.

Coming contests

With Saturday's events, 29 of the 50 states have selected delegates.

Two more - Michigan and Florida - held renegade primaries and the Democratic National Committee has vowed not to seat any delegates chosen at either of them.

The following contests remain for the Democrats.

Today: Maine, with 24 delegates, holds caucuses.

Tuesday: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and voting by Americans overseas, with 175 delegates combined.

March 4: Primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont, totaling 370 delegates.

March 11: Mississippi primary, with 33 delegates at stake.

June 7: Puerto Rico caucus, with 55 delegates.