WASHINGTON - Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton competed for Democratic convention delegates across three states on Saturday, locked in a landmark struggle for the party's presidential nomination.
A total of 158 delegates was at stake in the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington. Caucuses in the Virgin Islands offered three more.
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 party convention in Denver.
Republican contests in Louisiana, Kansas and Guam provided John McCain a chance to advance closer to the 1,191 delegates he needs to make his nomination official.
The Arizona senator began the day with 719 delegates. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, with 198, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, with 14, were his only remaining rivals following Mitt Romney's withdrawal from the race.
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 convention itself.
With the night'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.
Maine, with 24 delegates, holds caucuses on Sunday. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and voting by Americans overseas are next, on Tuesday, with 175 combined.
Then follows a brief intermission, followed by a string of election nights, some crowded, some not.
The date of March 4 looms large, 370 delegates in primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Mississippi is alone in holding a primary one week later, with a relatively small 33 delegates at stake.
Puerto Rico anchors the Democratic calendar, with 55 delegates chosen in caucuses on June 7.
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 Sunday's caucuses.
"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."
If Super Tuesday failed to settle the campaign, it produced a remarkable surge in fundraising.
Obama's aides announced he had raised more than $7 million on line in the two days that followed.
Clinton disclosed she had loaned her campaign $5 million late last month in an attempt to counter her rival's Super Tuesday television advertising. She raised more than $6 million in the two days after the busiest night in primary history.
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.