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A8706 BC-ELN-PRIMARY-RDP-ART-1 03-05 1511

TEXAS AND OHIO TO CLINTON; McCAIN IS IN AS GOP CHOICE

By ADAM NAGOURNEY

(SUBS to rewrite 1st 2 grafs to update. New graf 3 added. Lede of graf now beginning "Clinton’s twin victories 1/2hellip 3/4" updated. Following graf, beginning, "Clinton was already planning ways 1/2hellip 3/4" a complete rewrite. Graf beginning "But Clinton’s supporters 1/2hellip 3/4" adds "and Texas." Graf after that adds "in Columbus." Graf beginning "To that end, Clinton delivered 1/2hellip 3/4" rewritten for clarity.)

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(EDS: For all campaign-related photos and graphics, search nytimages.com for the key word ELN08.)

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Marjorie Connelly and Megan Thee contributed reporting from New York, and John M. Broder from Columbus, Ohio.

c.2008 New York Times News Service

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Sen. Barack Obama in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, ending a string of defeats and allowing her to soldier on in a Democratic presidential nomination race that now seems unlikely to end any time soon.

Clinton also won Rhode Island, while Obama won in Vermont. But the results mean that Clinton won the two states she most needed to keep her candidacy alive.

Her victory in Texas was razor-thin and came only after most Americans had gone to bed. But by winning decisively in Ohio earlier in the evening, Clinton was able to deliver a televised victory speech in time for the late-night news. And the result there allowed her to cast Tuesday as the beginning of a comeback even though she stood a good chance of gaining no ground against Obama in the hunt for delegates.

"No candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary," Clinton said at a rally in Columbus. "We all know that if we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win Democratic states just like Ohio."

On the Republican side, Sen. John S. McCain of Arizona swept to victory in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island, and claimed his party’s nomination, capping a remarkable comeback in his second bid for the presidency.

McCain’s lone remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, announced he was dropping out minutes after the polls closed and pledged his cooperation to McCain. McCain’s aides said he would head to Washington on Wednesday morning to go to the White House and accept the endorsement of President Bush, his one-time foe, and begin gathering his party around him for what is sure to be a hotly contested race against the Democratic nominee.

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He declared his final victory of this Republican nominating contest in a speech, delivered in subdued tones, to a boisterous crowd of supporters in Dallas.

"Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign: to make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people that our campaign and my election as president, given the alternatives presented by our friends in the other party, are in the best interests of the country we love," he said.

He then proceeded to offer a preview of some of the attacks he will make on his Democratic rival.

"I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed, big-government mandates of the ’60s and ’70s to address problems such as the lack of health care insurance for some Americans," he said. "I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry without ruining the quality of the world’s best medical care."

Clinton’s twin victories in Ohio and Texas gave her at the very least a psychic boost after a tough month in which she watched Obama roll up victory after victory and build a lead in delegates over her. There was virtually no chance that Clinton could have survived had she lost Ohio and Texas; Bill Clinton had said last month that his wife needed to win both states.

Clinton was already planning ways to capitalize on her performance; she was scheduled to appear Wednesday on all the morning news programs. But she will continue to find herself in a difficult position mathematically. Given the way the Democratic party allocates delegates, it remained unclear whether Clinton would close Obama’s lead on that front.

Even before the polls closed, Obama’s aides said that given their lead in delegates over Clinton, it was not possible for her to catch up with Obama in the few remaining fights.

Obama came out shortly before midnight to speak to a crowd in San Antonio, and laid out the argument his campaign will make in the days ahead.

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"We are in the middle of a very close race right now in Texas — we may not even know the final result until morning," he said, adding; "No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead that we did this morning and we are on our way to winning this nomination."

But Clinton’s supporters — exultant over the win — tried to cast the results in Ohio and Texas as a turning point in the race.

Clinton took the stage in Columbus before a sea of waving white-and-blue "Hillary" signs and immediately portrayed her victory in Ohio as an indication of her electability in a general election.

And she reprised a line of criticism against Obama that appeared to have gained her some traction in this contest.

"Americans don’t need more promises — they’ve heard plenty of speeches," Clinton said. "They deserve solutions and they deserve them now."

As Clinton spoke, her crowd responded with chants of, "Yes she will," an apparently orchestrated response to Obama’s trademark, "Yes we can."

The results left the two parties at very different stages of the race. McCain’s nomination has been, all but assured for almost a month. His campaign looked to the result Tuesday as an opportunity to begin framing the contest ahead. In contrast to his previous victory speeches, McCain made no mention of Obama, presumably because the result when he spoke was hardly clear.

Nonetheless, Obama called McCain at 8:30 Tuesday night from his hotel room in San Antonio, to congratulate him and to say he looked forward to running against him, said Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs. Clinton said much the same thing in her speech.

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The voting came on a day of problems at the polls in both states, in part because of a recurrence of the kind of huge turnouts that have marked almost every contest to date. In Ohio, the Obama campaign asked a judge Tuesday to keep polls open an additional two hours in Cuyahoga County because of paper shortages.

The Texas vote was actually two contests: a primary, where two-thirds of the delegates are selected, followed by a caucus, where the remaining one-third were selected. The Clinton campaign claimed irregularities by Obama’s supporters who, Clinton’s aides said, sought to gain improper of the caucuses.

In an illustration of the tension between the two campaigns, Bob Bauer, an election lawyer for Obama, called into a conference call arranged by the Clinton campaign. The call had been set up to discuss the Texas caucuses, and Bauer challenged the assertions being made by Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director. The two men, referring to each other by first names, engaged in a testy seven minute exchange.

For Democrats, and particularly for Clinton, the contests were as consequential as any that have taken place to date.

To that end, Clinton delivered some of the toughest attacks of this campaign over the weekend, including a television advertisement in Texas that challenged Obama’s national security credentials in Texas and attacks on Obama in Ohio over free trade and a meeting his economic adviser had with a Canadian diplomat about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

And there was evidence that the attacks had some effect. Clinton did well in both states among the 20 percent of voters in both states who said they made their decision in the last three days. Clinton won about 60 percent of those voters in Texas and about 55 percent of those who voted in Ohio, according to exit polls conducted statewide Tuesday by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool.

Surveys of voters leaving the polls showed Clinton doing well among Hispanics in Texas — a key target for her there — as well as among lower-income voters and women in Ohio, suggesting she was reassembling the coalition that had broken down in her losing 11 straight state contests to Obama over the past month. Obama was showing strength among black voters who made up 20 percent of the Democratic electorate in both states.

In Ohio, Clinton’s emphasis on economic issues helped her to some extent; three-quarters of respondents said they were concerned about their families’ financial situation and more than half of those voted for Clinton. She also won a majority of union households in Ohio and, in a reversal of her standing in early races, won decisively among white men.

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