Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton threw up a roadblock on Sen. Barack Obama’s path to the Democratic presidential nomination by winning the giant Ohio and Texas primaries, NBC News projected Wednesday morning.
“For everyone here in Ohio and across America who’s been counted out and 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, this one is for you,” Clinton said at a raucous rally in Columbus on a night when she took both of the two major prizes on offer.
Clinton, D-N.Y., and Obama, D-Ill., split the smaller Rhode Island and Vermont primaries, according to NBC News.
Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are awarded proportionally, and those numbers will not be available until all returns are in. Going into Tuesday’s balloting, Obama led Clinton by 1,194-1,037, according to NBC News’ count.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain of Arizona wrapped up the Republican nomination after he won all four contests, NBC News projected. His only remaining serious rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, withdrew from the race Tuesday night.
Ohio results unclear amid confusion
In all, there were 370 Democratic delegates at stake Tuesday night, most of them in Ohio and Texas, where Clinton had banked on stemming Obama’s momentum.
Balloting was glitch-ridden across Ohio, where election workers reported a record turnout of voters asked to use new or unfamiliar methods to tabulate votes after the turmoil of the 2000 election.
Voting was also described as confusing in Texas, where nearly half of delegates were being chosen in evening caucuses after the polls closed. The Clinton campaign alleged that Obama supporters were confiscating precinct chairmen’s manuals at the caucuses, as well as locking out Clinton supporters.
The process did not discourage Texas Democrats, who, because the nomination remained open, had their first chance in many years to have an impact on the contest. It appeared that the turnout would set a state record, and some polling places remained open more than two hours after closing time to accommodate voters waiting in line.
“This is the first time that I can remember, maybe in the last 20 years, that voting in the Democratic primary, as I have, makes such a big difference in the national election,” said Robin Melvin, a voter in Austin.
Candidates hold bases in exit polls
Just a few weeks ago, Clinton had strong leads in Ohio and Texas polls, and her campaign expected the states to stand as bulwarks against Obama’s string of victories that gained momentum on Super Tuesday.
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Final polls going into Tuesday’s voting showed that Obama had closed the margin significantly, but in the end, Clinton prevailed.
“Tonight, we won three out of four contests and began a new chapter in this historic campaign,” Clinton said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Surveys of voters as they left their polling places indicated that Clinton held onto her robust support from groups that have been the foundation of her candidacy.
The Ohio exit polls showed that Obama did not do as well as he had in recent contests in eroding her support from those groups, especially among white, blue-collar and older voters. Clinton also did a bit better among Ohio voters who chose their candidate in recent days, suggesting that she may have benefited from her aggressive attacks on what she called Obama’s lack of seasoning.
In Texas, the two candidates did best in parts of the state where they spent the most time campaigning — Clinton in South Texas and Obama in major metropolitan areas, especially Austin, the capital and the state’s most liberal city. And they did well among their core constituencies.
Clinton ran especially strong among Latinos, whom she had counted on in a state where she and former President Bill Clinton have political ties dating to the early 1970s. Exit polls indicated that she was winning two-thirds of the Latino vote.
Likewise, Obama won by strong margins among black voters, with a nearly 6-to-1 edge. The difference may have been in the demographics: African-Americans accounted for 20 percent of the Democratic primary voters, but Latinos made up more than 30 percent.
“I think tonight’s going to be a huge night,” said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s campaign chairman.
But Obama sounded a confident note Tuesday night, telling cheering supporters in San Antonio that the race was still a toss-up.
“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,” he said.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, argued that the Ohio result actually demonstrated Obama’s strength, noting that pre-election polls showed him trailing Clinton by as many as 20 points just three weeks ago.
In an interview with NBC News, Axelrod predicted that the delegate allocations would end up as a “wash,” saying nothing would be decided until primaries later in Wyoming, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
Ohio, Texas critical for Clinton
Some of Clinton’s supporters — her husband, the former president, among them — agreed that she needed to outpoll Obama in both Texas and Ohio to sustain her candidacy.
“We’re going on, we’re going strong, and we’re going all the way,” she said.
But Obama was just as optimistic, saying, “We can stand up with confidence and clarity.”
It takes 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination, and slightly more than 600 remained to be picked in the 10 states that vote after Tuesday.
By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com with Andrea Mitchell, Shawna Thomas and Ron Allen of NBC News. NBC affiliates KPRC of Houston; KXAN of Austin, Texas; WCMH of Columbus, Ohio; and WKYC of Cleveland contributed to this report.