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Clinton hails 3 wins; Obama downplays losses

Barack Obama says he will prevail despite key Democratic presidential primary losses to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton while the former first lady said voters are recognizing she has the credentials to go "toe-to-toe" with Republican nominee John McCain on national security.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Hillary Rodham Clinton scored three victories in a night of revival that denied Barack Obama a ripe opportunity to drive her from the Democratic presidential race. Clarity came only to the Republican side, where John McCain made the nomination his own.

Meanwhile, Clinton, fresh off big primary victories, hinted Wednesday at the possibility of sharing the Democratic presidential ticket with Obama — with her at the top. Obama played down his losses, stressing that he still holds the lead in number of delegates.

In a night that failed to clarify the Democratic race, McCain clinched the Republican nomination. Clinton won primaries in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, halting Obama's winning streak. Obama won in Vermont.

Both Democrats insisted on Wednesday they had the best credentials to go head to head — or as Clinton put it, "toe to toe" — against McCain.

Asked on CBS's "The Early Show" whether she and Obama should be on the same ticket, Clinton said: "That may be where this is headed, but of course we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me."

Later on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Clinton noted that both candidates have been asked this question many times. "Obviously it's premature for either of us to address it but you know there's a lot of interest in that.

"Many Democrats are hoping for that. We have to sort through this nominating process to see who ends up as the nominee but we're going to put together a winning ticket. The most important thing is to win in November."

'Keep on ticking'
Obama, who had hoped to knock Clinton out on Tuesday, said he would prevail against a tenacious candidate who "just keeps on ticking." Clinton acknowledged the race was close and said it would come down to her credentials on national security and the economy.

The two presidential contenders made the rounds of the morning network television news shows.

Clinton won the big races in Ohio and Texas, as well as Rhode Island, to break her costly losing streak, and asserted, "This nation's coming back and so is this campaign." But Obama came away with a large share of delegates, too, in counting that continued Wednesday, meaning he's got a lead that's tough to overcome.

McCain's long-slog victory was a striking achievement in a party once wary of his famously independent ways, now his party to lead in the November election.

The Arizona senator won a final validation — an invitation to the White House on Wednesday to receive the endorsement of President Bush, his nemesis in a past campaign, in a symbolic closing of the ranks.

No such unity came from the Democrats; instead, their crackling race was still on, and perplexing as ever.

"Boy, thank you Oh-HI-o," Clinton said in her victory speech.

Clinton won about 55 percent of the Ohio vote in nearly complete returns. She was winning just over half in the Texas primary.

She still faced a daunting task trying to overtake Obama in the remaining contests. It was questionable whether she would make up much ground once the final results were in and the complexities of allotting the 370 delegates at stake in the four states were ironed out.

"We have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning," Obama said, "and we are on our way to winning this nomination."

In the four-state competition for delegates, Clinton picked up at least 115, to at least 88 for Obama. Nearly 170 more remained to be allocated for the night, 154 of them in the Texas primary and the caucuses that immediately followed.

Obama took the lead in Texas caucuses before counting closed for the night — 55 percent to 44 percent, with results in from 40 percent.

Obama had a total of 1,307 delegates, not including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates, according to NBC News count.

Clinton had 1,175 delegates. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

Wyoming, Mississippi next
Wyoming offers 12 delegates in caucuses Saturday; Mississippi has 33 at stake next week. The biggest remaining prize is Pennsylvania, with 158 delegates, April 22.

Clinton and Obama spent most of the past two weeks in Ohio and Texas in a bruising campaign, with the former first lady questioning his sincerity in opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement and darkly hinting he's not ready to be commander in chief in a crisis.

Polling place interviews with voters in both states suggested the criticism hit home, finding Clinton was winning the votes of late deciders in Ohio and Texas, as well as Vermont.

Opinion polls had shown Obama overcoming significant and long-standing Clinton leads in Texas and Ohio, but his gains slowing in the final stretch.

Hispanics, a group that has favored Clinton in earlier primaries, cast nearly one-third of the Election Day votes in Texas, up from about one-quarter of the ballots four years ago, according to interviews with voters as they left their polling places.

Blacks, who have voted heavily for Obama this year, accounted for roughly 20 percent of the votes cast, roughly the same as four years ago.

Both Democrats called McCain — a Senate colleague — to congratulate him on his triumph in the Republican race.

The 71-year-old Arizona senator surpassed the 1,191 delegates needed to win his party's nomination.

He sealed a nomination race against odds that seemed steep only a few months ago, and all but impossible last summer.