Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Senator Barack Obama in Ohio on Tuesday, ending a string of defeats and giving her a chance to soldier on in the Democratic presidential race.
Mrs. Clinton also won Rhode Island, while Mr. Obama won in Vermont. The contest in the day’s other big state — Texas, which was having a primary and a caucus — remained extraordinarily close early Wednesday morning.
The Associated Press and television networks, however, projected that Mrs. Clinton would win the Texas primary.
By winning decisively in Ohio, Mrs. Clinton was able to deliver her party’s only victory speech of the evening. And the result there allowed her to cast Tuesday as the beginning of a comeback even though the full story of the results was not yet known and she stood a good chance of gaining no ground against Mr. Obama in the hunt for delegates.
“No candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary,” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “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, Senator John McCain swept to victory in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont and claimed his party’s nomination, capping a remarkable comeback in his second bid for the presidency.
Mr. McCain’s main remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, announced he was dropping out minutes after the polls closed and pledged his cooperation to Mr. McCain. Aides to Mr. McCain said he would head Wednesday morning to Washington to go to the White House and accept the endorsement of President Bush, his one-time foe, and begin gathering his party around him.
Mr. McCain, of Arizona, delivered his victory speech in subdued tones to a boisterous crowd of supporters in Dallas.
“Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign,” he said, “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.”
Mr. McCain proceeded to offer a preview of attacks for 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.”
Mrs. Clinton’s victory in Ohio gave her, at the least, a psychological boost after a tough month in which she watched Mr. Obama, of Illinois, roll up victory after victory and build a lead in delegates. There was virtually no chance that Mrs. Clinton could have survived had she lost both Ohio and Texas; her husband, former President Bill Clinton, said last month that his wife needed to win both states.
Mrs. Clinton will continue to find herself in a difficult position mathematically. Given the way the Democratic party allocates delegates, it remained possible that Mrs. Clinton could win the popular vote in as many as three states on Tuesday but end up winning fewer delegates than Mr. Obama.
Even before the polls closed, Mr. Obama’s aides said that given their lead in delegates over Mrs. Clinton, it was not possible for her to catch up in the few remaining contests.
Mr. Obama came out shortly before midnight to speak to a crowd in San Antonio, and laid out the argument his campaign would make in the days ahead.
“No matter what happens tonight,” he said, “we have nearly the same delegate lead that we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination.”
But Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, exultant over the victory, tried to cast the results in Ohio as a turning point in the race.
Mrs. Clinton took the stage 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 Mr. Obama that appeared to have gained her some traction in this contest.
“Americans don’t need more promises,” she said. “They’ve heard plenty of speeches. They deserve solutions and they deserve them now.”
As she spoke, the crowd responded with chants of “Yes, she will!” — apparently an orchestrated response to Mr. Obama’s trademark “Yes, we can!”
Turning one of Mr. Obama’s themes against him, she said, “Together, we will turn promises into action, words into solutions and hope into reality.”
The New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/us/politics/05primary.html?hp