Clinton declares victory in Indiana

May 6, 2008 9:37:12 PM PDT
Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to keep going full throttle for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday after losing North Carolina and facing a strong challenge from Barack Obama in Indiana. Clinton lost in North Carolina and faced a strong challenge from Barack Obama in Indiana, but predicted she would prevail there.

"Tonight, we've come from behind. We've broken the tie, and thanks to you, it's full speed on to the White House," Clinton told hundreds of supporters in downtown Indianapolis as former President Clinton and daughter Chelsea stood by her side.

Her words aside, Tuesday clearly wasn't what the former first lady had hoped it would be. And there were signs that she was mindful of the fragile state of her candidacy, and her dwindling options to block Obama from claiming the Democratic nomination.

Clinton made a direct fundraising appeal to backers to help her compete against Obama's better-financed operation - unusual remarks at a victory party. Her speech seemed to lack the boisterous spirit that marked her events in the run up to Tuesday. And she didn't linger on the "rope line," where fans crowd her to shake hands, sign autographs and pose for pictures, after ending her speech. She spent some time greeting supporters but then quickly left the building.

"I need your help to continue our journey," Clinton said in her speech. "This has always been your campaign, and this is your victory because your support has meant the difference between winning and losing."

"I hope you will go to and support our campaign," she added.

Clinton spoke before it was clear she would win Indiana. She led narrowly in the state, and Obama said it appeared Clinton had won there. But thousands of votes had yet to be counted, principally in Lake County, not far from Obama's home city of Chicago.

In what was perhaps a nod to her uphill struggle to overcome Obama's delegate lead, she noted the back-and-forth nature of the protracted fight - "I win, he wins. I win, he wins. It's so close." - and pledged anew that she'll swing behind the Democratic nominee "no matter what happens."

But she also vowed to press on for the nomination, saying: "These next primaries are another test. I will work my heart out in West Virginia and Kentucky. I intend to win them in November."

Clinton hoped an Indiana victory would give her fresh talking points as she works to convince voters yet to cast their ballots and undecided superdelegates - elected Democratic officials - to side with her in the punishingly long nomination fight.

Obama leads in the race to rack up the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. It will be difficult - if not impossible - for Clinton to overtake him even if she manages to win a chunk of the states left to vote and convinces many of the unaligned superdelegate to break her way.

The New York senator was heading back to Washington early Wednesday. Her only public appearance was an evening fundraiser. She also planned to meet privately with superdelegates who have endorsed her, which aides said was routine after a primary night.

Clinton planned to return to the campaign trail Thursday with events in at least one of the remaining states to vote.

Once the Democratic front-runner, Clinton sustained a series of losses to Obama early in the year and in the months since has been slowly clawing her way back into the thick of the race.

Over the past two months, she scored a couple of big-state wins as Obama faltered amid the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Obama's own comment that people from small towns cling to guns and religion because they are bitter.

Seeking to take advantage of that opportunity, Clinton retooled her campaign to focus on producing results for an anxious middle class and started aggressively courting white, working-class voters at a time of economic anxiety. With that strategy, she triumphed last month in Pennsylvania and kept her candidacy alive.

She used the same bread-and-butter message in Indiana and North Carolina, and the final days of those primaries were dominated by Clinton's call for a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax.

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