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Election watchers: Presidential races are still alive

With mixed emotions, activists in both parties watching Super Tuesday returns hinted that the tightening races could go down to the conventions.

Democrats, who packed a Super Tuesday buffet at Medford's Red Lion, split between favorites Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, reminding each other that, under Democratic rules, primary candidates don't "win" states anymore — they win proportions of delegates based on popular votes.

"It's going to be a hot race all the way to Denver (the convention site)," said county Democratic Chairwoman Paulie Brading. Americans of all groups, she said, are energized by what she called the policy failures of the last eight years and "are asking what else is out there?"

Former Congressional nominee Carol Voisin, an Ashland Democrat, said she expected the tight battle between Clinton and her own pick, Obama, to still be going on when the Oregon primary happens May 20 — and that it will keep the focus on health care, the Iraq war and immigration.

Ginnie Deason, who campaigned for Obama in Iowa, said Clinton's victories in populous Northeastern states represented the "old line, old time" Democratic party and that Obama inspired the young toward the future.

Former Jackson County Commissioner Jon Deason said he was disappointed that Obama didn't win many big states and didn't want to see him get the image of winning in heavily African-American Southern states.

Rosemary Dunn Dalton, who just registered with her same-sex partner under Oregon's new domestic partnership law, said it was a "bind" choosing between a black and a woman, but "I went with gender" and supported Clinton.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, at the legislature in Salem, said "it looks like it's going to be a contest all the way to the convention — and that's good for politics in general and goof for nominating a strong person who is able to govern our country."

Republicans, who didn't hold a Super Tuesday party, acknowledged the split between evangelical, social issue voters and the more business-minded, foreign policy wing.

"It shows we've got more primaries to go through," said county Republican Vice Chairman Perry Atkinson. "I was surprised how well Mike Huckabee did. It means conservatives are still looking for a candidate. The struggle is between conservatives and the moderate Republicans — and the fact that conservatives have a hard time with McCain voting with the Democrats and Romney being seen as a flip-flopper."

Chuck Heauser of Medford, an alternate delegate with Jackson County Republicans, said "it's not over," despite McCain's big wins on Super Tuesday.

"If Romney and Huckabee both stay in the race, it could go down to the convention, though a lot of people would rather not see that," he said. "It would compress the race (between the nominees) to September and October and that might be a good thing. It would help reduce voter fatigue."

Val Smullen, treasurer of Jackson County Republican Women, said the results Tuesday point to a race between McCain and Huckabee and "it will be an emotional time and I think McCain will prevail by reaching out to the more conservative Republicans."

"Wounds always open in the primary, but he will be embraced by conservatives," she said. "There's too much at stake to allow the election to go the other way."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Barbara McNair, left, and Sue Goldman, center, watch the results of their candidates’ efforts on a projected television set during a Democratic fundraiser in Medford’s Red Lion Motel. - Bob Pennell