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Clinton Beats Obama in Texas and Ohio; McCain Clinches Republican Nomination

Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) addresses her supporters from Columbus, Ohio after Tuesday's primary election results filter in. Video by AP

Clinton appeared increasingly confident as the day went along. She began with a round of interviews in Texas, then flew to Ohio for her election-night party. Obama sounded cautious about his prospects.

Asked on his campaign plane yesterday afternoon whether he thought the battle was likely to go on at least until Pennsylvania, he said: "What my head tells me is that we've got a very sizable delegate lead that is going to be hard to overcome. . . . But look: She is a tenacious and determined candidate and so we're just going to make sure we work as hard as we can as long as it takes."

Obama said the Clinton camp had run "a pretty negative campaign over the last couple of weeks," adding that he had resisted answering in kind. He said he was surprised that the Clinton team's criticism of the media as being soft on him had prompted a change in the tone of coverage of his campaign. "I didn't expect that you guys would bite on that," he said. "But you know, it is what it is."

The past two weeks saw a significant swing in the state of the Texas and Ohio races. Weeks ago Clinton held substantial leads in both states, but Obama began to close the gap when he started winning primaries and caucuses after Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

On Feb. 21, the candidates met in Austin for the first of two scheduled debates in the battleground states. Obama flew to South Texas the next morning for his first visit to heavily Hispanic areas of the state -- Clinton country in the estimation of his advisers -- and returned for a rally at the state capitol in Austin that drew 20,000 people.

At that point, Obama's advisers were increasingly confident that he could win at least one of the two big states. Other Democrats interpreted Clinton's demeanor at the debate -- and the decision by her campaign not to begin airing attack ads the next day -- as signs that she was worried about appearing too negative in what might be the final two weeks of her candidacy.

But within 48 hours, her demeanor changed sharply. In Ohio on Feb. 23, she blistered Obama about a campaign flier that she said contained "blatantly false" depictions of her health-care plan and her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Waving the mailers, she said, "Shame on you, Barack Obama," as she challenged her rival to "meet me in Ohio and let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign."

Three days later, the two appeared at Cleveland State University for their next debate, a more pointed encounter than their Texas encounter.

The campaign took another turn last Friday, when the Clinton team began running a new ad in Texas challenging Obama's credentials to be commander in chief. The ad featured the sound of a ringing telephone and images of sleeping children. It asked voters to consider whom they wanted in the White House if a crisis were to erupt in the middle of the night.

The spot came after a sharp internal debate among Clinton's advisers, with her chief strategist pushing hard to put the commercial on the air despite concerns that its negative tone could backfire. Obama's campaign countered immediately with a response that featured similar imagery but argued that on the biggest foreign policy decision of the past eight years -- whether to go to war in Iraq -- Clinton had voted yes while Obama had spoken out against it.

Staff writers Perry Bacon Jr. with Clinton and Shailagh Murray with Obama and polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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