Clinton Revives Candidacy With Wins in Ohio and Texas

March 4th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

By Ken Fireman and Kristin Jensen, Bloomberg / March 05, 2008

Senator Hillary Clinton revived her presidential campaign and set the stage for a prolonged fight with Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination with twin triumphs in the Texas and Ohio primaries.

Clinton’s victories in three of the four states voting yesterday, including the two largest, ended Obama’s 11-contest winning streak. They pumped new life into her candidacy heading into the next big test on April 22 in Pennsylvania, where the electorate looks much like Ohio’s in demographic terms. (more…)

By Ken Fireman and Kristin Jensen, Bloomberg / March 05, 2008

Senator Hillary Clinton revived her presidential campaign and set the stage for a prolonged fight with Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination with twin triumphs in the Texas and Ohio primaries.

Clinton’s victories in three of the four states voting yesterday, including the two largest, ended Obama’s 11-contest winning streak. They pumped new life into her candidacy heading into the next big test on April 22 in Pennsylvania, where the electorate looks much like Ohio’s in demographic terms.

While Clinton still trails in delegates, her narrow win in Texas and decisive victory in Ohio allow Clinton “to hit the restart button in this campaign,” said Christopher Lehane, a Democratic consultant who worked on former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and isn’t affiliated with any candidate in this year’s race. “Never, ever count out a Clinton,” he said.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain of Arizona clinched his party’s nomination by racking up four more wins over former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. After the results were apparent, Huckabee announced he was ending his campaign.

Clinton, speaking to supporters in Columbus, said her victories were for everyone “who’s ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard and never gives up.”

Clinton-Obama Ticket

Asked today whether the close race could lead to a Clinton-Obama ticket in the fall, Clinton hinted in an interview with CBS’s “The Early Show” that it is a possibility. “That may be where this is headed, but we have to decide who is on the top of the ticket,” she said.

While yesterday’s results were welcome in the Clinton camp, she barely cut into Obama’s overall lead of more than 100 pledged delegates — a point Obama noted when he talked to his supporters in San Antonio last night.

“No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination,” Obama said.

The next states to hold contests, Wyoming and Mississippi, are likely to increase his margin. Wyoming on March 8 holds a caucus, a type of contest in which Obama has generally prevailed. Mississippi, which holds a primary on March 11, has a heavy concentration of black voters.

A New Argument

Still, yesterday’s results gave Clinton a new argument as she addresses both voters and the 795 superdelegates, party officeholders and officials who aren’t bound by primary and caucus votes.

“If you can prove you can win Ohio, you are a long way to convincing people that you’re the best nominee,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as spokeswoman for former candidate John Edwards and was deputy press secretary in Bill Clinton’s White House.

Clinton’s Ohio victory demonstrated that she “still has a large and important following among traditional Democratic voters,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Clinton had 51 percent of the vote in Texas to Obama’s 47 percent with 99 percent counted. In Ohio, Clinton was winning 54 percent to Obama’s 44 percent with 99 percent counted.

Clinton also prevailed in Rhode Island, where she took 58 percent of the vote to Obama’s 40 percent with 98 percent counted. Obama won in Vermont, taking 60 percent to Clinton’s 38 percent with 86 percent counted.

Pledged Delegates

The results of the four primaries left Obama, 46, of Illinois, with at least 1,255.5 pledged delegates and Clinton, 60, of New York with 1,157.5, according to the Green Papers, a nonpartisan Web site. NBC’s tally was 1,202 for Obama and at least 1,042 for Clinton.

Clinton achieved her comeback after putting Obama on the defensive in the final days before yesterday’s contests.

She ran a TV commercial suggesting she was better able than her rival to protect the country from a terrorist attack.

Clinton advisers also questioned Obama’s sincerity about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, citing press reports that an aide had told Canadian diplomats Obama’s criticism of Nafta didn’t necessarily reflect the policy he would pursue as president.

The Clinton campaign also hit Obama’s links to Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko, who went on trial on corruption charges this week.

“There’s no doubt that if you’re being attacked every day that it creates a sense of turbulence in the minds of people,” Obama said yesterday in a session with reporters aboard his campaign plane before the results were known.

`A Human Being’

New York University Professor Paul Light said Clinton had “proven that Obama is a human being, which is exactly what she needed to do. She may have even proven that Obama is a politician, which could even this up quickly.”

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Clinton supporter, said her candidate’s aggressive message and concentration on economic issues of importance to Ohio voters helped her.

“When you’re in a foxhole and you start coming out swinging,” it gives focus to a candidate’s message, Granholm said in an interview. “She’s been doing that, and she’s been really disciplined, I think, on the economic message.”

The combination of McCain’s clinching victories and Clinton’s revival creates a scenario appealing to Republicans. While McCain can concentrate on uniting his party and preparing for the fall campaign, the two Democratic contenders will continue to batter each other, at least until the Pennsylvania vote in April and perhaps well beyond.

`Dream Come True’

“You have seven weeks of the candidates going after one another and doing the work that Republicans thought they were going to have to do,” said Peter Fenn, a Democratic strategist unaligned with either campaign. “This could be a dream come true for the Republicans.”

Even if Clinton prevails in Pennsylvania, the handful of contests that remain after it will be waged in states where, at this stage, Obama is considered to have an advantage.

And should Clinton wind up winning the nomination with the help of most of the superdelegates, it could cause a bitter divide in the party, experts say.

“Republicans are blessed that the Obama-Clinton bloody knife fight will continue,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

On the Offensive

The Democratic candidates went back on the offensive this morning, each appearing on all three television networks. Clinton, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” said she is the best Democrat to face off with McCain.

“It’s no longer an abstract question. It’s a real one for Democrats: Who do they want to go up against John McCain?” Clinton said. “I think the answer yesterday was clear.”

Obama, appearing on NBC’s “Today Show,” emphasized his delegate lead.

“We’ve won more primaries and more caucuses,” he said. “Most Democrats are going to feel like whoever has won the most delegates in these primaries and caucuses will end up being the nominee.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ken Fireman in Washington at kfireman1@bloomberg.net; Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net.

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