With the results from yesterday’s primaries and caucuses in nearly half of the United States counted, it appears that the Republicans have chosen their candidate for President while the Democrats are still unable to choose between a woman and a black man.

Senator John McCain, the 71-year-old war hero and former Vietnam prisoner of war, took nine of the 21 states voting in the Republican contests.

The big surprise of the night was former Governor of Arkansas Mike Hucakee.

He won his home state and Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.

His brand of fundamentalist Christianity clearly appealed to Southern Republicans wary of McCain’s perceived liberalism, and his campaign has received a significant boost.

Meanwhile Mitt Romney, who has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on his bid for the White House, took seven states: Massachusetts, where he was Governor from 2003 to 2007, Alaska, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Colorado.

Many of the contests in Republican races are winner takes all, which explains why Senator McCain won 511 delegates last night while Governor Huckabee took 147 and Governor Romney 176.

The delegates gather at the party conventions at the end of the summer to formally nominate their candidates for President.

The election is held on November 4th.

“While I’ve never minded the role of the underdog, and have relished as much as anyone come from behind wins, I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican party front-runner for the nomination,” Senator McCain told supporters.

Just six months ago his campaign was viewed as a minor distraction from the rise of Romney.

However, despite poor results Governor Romney pledged to keep fighting and has no intention of dropping out of the race, while Governor Huckabee can hardly contain his glee at sweeping the South.

In the Democratic races, which took place in 21 states, American Samoa and among expatriate party members, the candidates are apportioned delegates based on how many votes they won.

This makes second place important in the overall race.

The results were close.

Senator Hillary Clinton won eight states, including many with large populations and therefore a high number of delegates, among them the biggest of them all, California.

It is thought that Hispanic support was vital to her victory there.

She also won in her home state of New York, New Jersey and Arkansas, where she was First Lady for 12 years.

Her rival for the Democratic nomination, 46-year-old Barack Obama, won his home state of Illinois and 12 others, among them some mid-Western states such as Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota.

These states, while they may not carry with them a large number of delegates, indicate that Mr Obama continues to appeal to white voters.

Despite taking 13 states to Senator Clinton’s eight, she won more delegates, because of the populations of the state where she took the lead.

AP reports that Senator Obama won 562 delegates to Senator Clinton’s 582.

Overall she has 845 delegates to her opponent’s 765. The winner requires at least 2,025.

42% of the total delegates to the Democratic convention were apportioned yesterday.

Senator Obama’s momentum seems hard to stop.

“There is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know,” he told supporters last night.

“Our time has come. Our time has come, our movement is real and change is coming to America.”

Meanwhile Senator Clinton, at all times emphasising her experience as a White House spouse and member of the Senate, said:

“Tonight in record numbers you voted not just to make history, but to remake America.

“I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate, about how to leave this country better off for the next generation, because that is the work of my life.”

All eyes are now on phase four of the Democratic race.

On Saturday Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state and the US Virgin Islands will hold their primaries and caucuses, followed by Maine the next day.

Next Tuesday is the so-called Beltway primary, when the states surrounding Washington DC, such as Maryland and Virginia, and DC itself, go to the polls.

In March and April, May and June Washington DC, a further 14 states and two territories will choose until on June 3rd Montana and South Dakota will hold their primaries.

The key races will be in the populous states of Ohio and Texas.

While many commentators expect the race to have a winner atfer those two key primaries, the closeness of the candidates makes it possible it could be up to Democrats in Montana and South Dakota who runs for President.