Supporters cheered in New York as Clinton took an early lead over Obama [AFP]

Candidates, commentators and analysts weigh in on Al Jazeera as Super Tuesday got under way.

Michael Costello, former Australian government official

"McCain is a free trader, which is very good news. He is very focused on the Asia-Pacific, he believes that it is the region of the future. But he, like all of the US, will be focused on Iraq as president. He has staked his whole political career on victory in Iraq, and he has taken a hard line on Iran and its [alleged] acquisition of nuclear weapons.

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"Clinton also focuses on the Asia-Pacific and gives it priority. However, she has moved towards a much more protectionist stance over the course of her candidacy, which is not good news.

"Obama certainly has a chance ... Obama may win it. He is protectionist in his attitudes. He may withdraw from Iraq rather more quickly than Clinton. Some of the views he expresses seem, to me, rather incautious."

Barack Obama (Democratic Party), presidential hopeful, speaking after winning the primary in Illinois:

"There is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know: Our time has come."

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

"If I'm your nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq, because I didn't. Or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, because I haven't. Or that I support the Bush-Cheney doctrince of not talking to leaders we don't like, because I profoundly disagree with that approach.

"And he will not be able to say that I waivered on something as fundamental as whether or not it's OK for America to use torture, because it is never OK. That is the choice in this election."

John McCain (Republican Party), presidential hopeful, speaking in Arizona after winning the state:

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"Tonight my friends, we've won a number of important victories in the closest thing we've ever had to a national primary.

"Although I've never minded the role of the underdog ... I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination.

"This election, like any election, is a rough-and-tumble business. We all want to win and we fight as hard as we can to do it. But I have respect for people who are willing to accept all the extraordinary demands, all the ups and downs of such a tough and long contest, and Governor Romney has mine."

Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party), presidential hopeful, speaking after winning in New York:

"Tonight we are hearing the voices of people across America ... After seven years of a president who listens only to the special interests, you're ready for a president that brings your voices, your values and your dreams to your White House.

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"The Republicans want eight more years of the same. They see tax cuts for the wealthy and they say 'why not more', they see $9 trillion in debt and say 'why not trillions more', they see five years in Iraq and say 'why not 100 more'.

"We know the Republicans won't give up the White House without a fight. Well let me be clear: I won't let anyone 'swift boat' this country's future.

"Together we're going to take back America because ... I see an America respected around the world again, that reaches out to our allies and confronts our shared challenges, from global terrorism to global warming to global epidemics."

Mitt Romney (Republican Party), presidential hopeful, speaking after victory in Massachusetts:

"One thing that's clear is this campaign is going on ... We're going to keep on battling, we're going to go all the way to the convention and we're going to win this thing and we're going to get into the White House.

"I'm convinced that if Washington continues on its same course, America will emerge, not as the great nation of the 21st century by the end, but as a second-tier power.

"At the base of our ability to lead the world is a robust and powerful economy. Right now, things are a little shaky ... there's a long-term slide that we've seen.

"We can't allow our economy to continue to be weakened ... it's time for us to lift America, to lift our economy. We're going to do that by keeping our taxes down, by getting regulation down, by having immigration work for us - that means stopping illegal immigration."

Mike Huckabee (Republican Party), presidential hopeful, speaking after winning the Arkansas primary:

"Tonight we are proving that we are still on our feet and, much to the amazement of many, we are getting there, folks - we are getting there.

"We have been standing for small business owners who know the government for way too long had its foot on their neck, with taxes that were too high, regulations that were too onerous, threats of litigations made it impossible for too many small businesses to survive,

"Our party once stood to help clear the way so that the free-market system really worked, and we're going to do it again because one of these days when I get to be president - and it won't be very long, a year from now - I really look forward to nailing the 'going out of business sign' on the IRS."

Jennifer Palmieri (Democratic Party), former deputy White House spokesperson under Bill Clinton:

"I think what people don't realise is that [Clinton] is actually to the left of [Obama] generally on policy. Her healthcare plan is more progressive, it covers more people. The same thing is true on energy, she's gone further to the left in being agressive on global warming.

"I don't think that the press is out to get Clinton, but they definitely are predisposed to being negative towards, to being tired of her, to holding her to a different standard.

"It's gotten to the point where McCain can do no wrong in the press' eyes and Obama can do no wrong in the press' eyes.

Tom Basile (Republican Party), Republican strategist:

"Hillary Clinton really built this air of inevitability around herself that I think she really sapped the air out of her campaign, right from the very beginning.

"You have to give Obama credit. He has energised people, he's drawing crowds of 10, 15, 20 thousand people at these campaigng rallies.

On the Republican race: "You have to look at the Huckabee factor tonight. It's going to be really critical because Hucakbee and Romney are going for the same voters. And that can make a really big difference whether or not Romney moves on in this contest.

"As the Democratic campaign moves forward, I think that the Republican campaign is going to be over much more quickly. Obama and Clinton are going to have to fight this out. The Democratic party sort of organised their primaries as a longer process than the Republican party's.

"The longer that this goes on, the better it is for the Republicans."

Scott McLarty (Independent), Green party spokesperson:

"From our point of view, a lot of the debate between Hillary and Barack is showbiz. It's a clash of personalities and a clash of styles.

"We want to see more of a variety of choices for the American people, for voters ... We're talking about fault lines but the difference on policy between Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton isn't that wide.

"We're waiting to find out if Ralph Nader is going to declare [but] we do have other candidates."

"We offer something quite different from the Democrats and Republicans, and I would say that on many issues including Iraq and health care, the Green party is more in touch - according to polls - with where a lot of American voters stand."

Max Blumenthal, political blogger and film maker:

"Mitt Romney's demise is a huge repudiation of the conservative establishment. You've seen the insurgent candidacy of Mike Huckabee completely overwhelm Mitt Romney, serving as a spoiler and now collaborating with John McCain to undermine him in states like West Virginia, which he thought was a wrap.

"Huckabee's ... dividing the Christian right and throwing the election to John McCain, who's absolutely despised by the conservative movement.

"It's a really interesting night ... I think [Huckabee] is making a play to be John McCain's vice-president. John McCain needs to shore up his support on the right.

"Within the Republican party, [McCain] is seen as a maverick voice, but the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that John McCain is well to the right of the centre in American politics."

Source: Al Jazeera