U.S. voters are going to the polls or local caucuses in 24 states across the country Tuesday to choose their favorite Republican or Democratic presidential candidate. As VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington, the day is called "Super Tuesday".
With voting taking place in many states across the country from Massachusetts on the east coast to California in the West, a new average of five national public opinion polls show Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a virtual tie for the Democratic Party nomination.
The states voting Tuesday include large, populous states such as California and New York, which are rich in delegates needed to secure the nomination.
In New York, which she represents in the Senate, Hillary Clinton headed out to vote early.
"I am just very excited about today," she said. "I think we should encourage everybody, across the country, to come out and vote in this unprecedented national primary. Obviously there is a lot at stake, the stakes are huge for our country, lots of big challenges, but America is up to it. We just need a president who is ready on day one, to turn the economy around, become commander in chief and get our country back on the right track."
The biggest prize in terms of delegates is California. Appearing on a morning television news show Tuesday, Illinois Senator Barack Obama sought to lower expectations about his staging an upset victory in California.
"Senator Clinton, I think, has to be the prohibitive favorite going in, given her name recognition, but we have been steadily chipping away," he said.
Surveys show that Obama has caught up with Clinton in California. Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns say it is unlikely either one will be able to win enough delegates on Super Tuesday to lock up the nomination.
On the Republican Party side, latest opinion polls show Arizona Senator John McCain with a commanding lead over the three remaining candidates, former Governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and Representative Ron Paul of Texas.
McCain was confident on Monday, looking beyond the primaries to the general election. "I am optimistic, I am enthusiastic, and I am confident that I can win this election, but more importantly, that I can lead this nation," said McCain.
Romney made a last-minute dash across the country to try to prevent McCain from wrapping up the nomination. Romney said he is the "true conservative" in the race, seeking to exploit mistrust of McCain, considered by many conservatives as a Republican maverick on issues such as immigration and campaign-finance reform. "We are going to hand the liberals in our party a little surprise on Tuesday evening when we take California, and we take Georgia, we take states across the country and we get this nomination," said Romney.
Some surveys show Romney gaining ground in the crucial state of California.