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McCain, Clinton win primaries in N.J.

U.S. Sen. John McCain easily won New Jersey's 52 Republican delegates in the state's winner-take-all GOP primary election today, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney second in the balloting.

U.S. Sen. John McCain easily won New Jersey's 52 Republican delegates in the state's winner-take-all GOP primary election today, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney second in the balloting.

The Democratic race was closer, but the Associated Press declared U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton the winner over U.S. Sen. Barack Obama just after 9:30 p.m. Clinton is likely to get the majority of the 107 Democratic delegates at stake.

New Jersey voters turned out in large numbers, energized by a rare chance to play a role in the presidential nominating process.

McCain's strong showing in the state boosted his prospects for the eventual GOP nomination; he had gathered increasing support in New Jersey in recent weeks, pulling away from a shrinking Republican field.

The AP declared McCain the winner almost as soon as polls closed at 8 p.m.

McCain apparently ran well all across the state. He picked up support from backers of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani after Giuliani dropped out of the running. And McCain's reputation as an independent Republican resonated with New Jersey's relatively moderate GOP voters and with independents, who could vote in either party's primary.

David Kramer, 42, a Moorestown physician, said he voted for McCain because he agrees with his more conservative views on fiscal policy and more liberal views on social policy.

"I appreciate both those positions," said Kramer, after voting at a polling place at Brandywine Assisted Living at Moorestown Estates.

"It's been a roller-coaster for the last 10 months," said state Sen. Bill Baroni, chairman of McCain's New Jersey campaign, as McCain supporters gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hamilton. "We were up, we were down, we were up again." Now, Baroni said, "It's not just about nominating John McCain. Starting tomorrow, it's going to be about electing John McCain."

Cherry Hill resident Peter Reich said he was a McCain supporter but voted for Clinton in the Democratic primary, to boost McCain's chances.

"I voted for Clinton because I feel she's the weaker of the two candidates, and McCain has a better shot against her than Obama. Because I just think that the Democrats, neither of them are particularly appropriate for the country at this time," said Reich, 51.

Voting was much heavier than in previous New Jersey primaries, election officials said, because the state moved its primary to February from June. The previous presidential primary, in 2004, attracted only 9 percent of registered voters.

Voters seemed to relish the opportunity, this time, to affect the outcome of the national race.

Aman McLeod, 33, a professor of political science at Rutgers in Camden, was one of six voters in line at 8:45 a.m. at the Collingswood Public Library.

He called himself a "phony independent," because he had not previously declared a party affiliation. McLeod became a Democrat today and voted for Obama.

"This is a really interesting election," he said. "It's a chance to make history."

He said he found no big difference between Obama and Clinton in terms of policy, but considered Obama "more electable."

In Cherry Hill, Shannon Smith, 32, arrived at the polls with her 7-month-old daughter, Hannah.

Smith said it was the first time she had cast a vote in a primary. She said the lack of a clear front-runner had drawn her to the polls but declined to say whom she voted for.

"You can make a difference voting today," she said.

Dona Cox, 56, of Maple Shade, who is starting a new business as the owner of a jewelry company, said she voted for Clinton: "She's been in the government for a long time and I like her views."

Cox said the most important issues to her were health care and the economy, and she thought Clinton would do a better job on both.

At a polling place in Cherry Hill High School West, Wayne and Volga Press split their votes: Wayne for Obama and Volga for Clinton.

"I think she will be a strong president, and she is already a good leader," Volga Press said of Clinton.

Her husband said, "Even before Caroline Kennedy came out to support him, I remember talking about it six months ago. I said, 'His candidacy reminds me of Kennedy's.' "

Gerald Wakeham, 53, a machinist from Maple Shade, went to the polls at the municipal complex with his daughter, Kaitlin Wakeham, 21, an administrative assistant. Both voted for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

"I feel he represents the core values that I have in my own life," said Gerald Wakeham, a Canadian who became a U.S. citizen 11 years ago. "I followed many of the debates. . . . I just think he's the right guy for our country."

In Collingswood, Joseph Bradley, 40, a financial planner, arrived at the polls with his wife, Christine Hillock, 32, and their 9-month-old daughter, Nora. It was their first primary election.

Bradley voted for Obama; his wife did not say which candidate she selected. Both said they considered Clinton and Obama strong candidates.

"I wanted something different," Bradley said. "I'm a little tired of both the Clintons and the Bushes. I thought a fresh look at the nation's problems might do something to solve them."

The Democrats get 127 delegates in New Jersey, and 107 of those will be awarded proportionally according to primary vote totals in specially designated districts and statewide. The remaining 20 are party and elected officials who can support whomever they choose, and most are already pledged to Clinton.