WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton will continue to press ahead with her campaign, despite losing ground Tuesday to rival Barack Obama in both delegates and the popular vote, aides said Wednesday morning.
Chief Clinton strategist Geoff Garin said that her narrow Indiana win was enough to keep the Clinton campaign alive. He noted that it was the first time Clinton had come from behind to win a state and that she did it despite being outspent by Obama on TV.
"It allows us to go on," he said.
"Over the sweep of things, it represents significant progress for Sen. Clinton and it is a good victory under challenging cicumstances," Garin said.
What resources Clinton will have to campaign, however, remained unclear. Campaign aides acknoweldged that she has lent her campaign $6.4 million in recent weeks — $5 million on April 11, $1 million on May 1, and $400,000 on May 5. She's willing to lend more if necessary, aide Howard Wolfson said.
The aides said they did not know what Clinton's fundraising had been since the results of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries became known — a stark contrast to the hours after she won Pennsylvania, when they issued several statements about money pouring in. An e-mail Clinton's campaign sent out to donor's early Wednesday morning did not include a direct solicitation for funds.
Garin also tried to portray the results in North Carolina, where Obama won by 14 points, as good news for Clinton and repeated what is the Clinton campaign's continued effort to portray its candidate as the one best able to beat John McCain in November. Garin noted that Clinton carried the white working class by a large margin and that that will be a key voting bloc in November.
The Clinton camp's pronouncement came as Tuesday's results made it increasingly clear that Clinton cannot overtake Obama in either the pledged delegate count or the popular vote with the six primaries that remain. His decisive win in North Carolina, and close finish in Indiana where the spread was less than two percentage points, denied her the two-state knockout punch that would have left Obama reeling.
The final six contests are in places — West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota — that are simply too small to provide the kind of boost she would need.
With only 217 delegates at stake in all six combined, Obama is all but certain to emerge after five months of voting with his lead among pledged delegates intact. In fact, Obama aides Tuesday night predicted he would win a majority of the pledged delegates this month.
He also added to his nationwide lead Tuesday in the popular vote — a second strong argument to take in June to the party elites who'll cast the deciding convention votes for a nominee.
The one continuing weakness, however, that was reinforced in both Indiana and North Carolina — his inability to win working-class whites. He lost that bloc in both states as a large number of voters signaled that they remained concerned about his ties to his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Those who thought it was an important story broke solidly for Clinton.
And as Clinton's aides made clear Wednesday, that's her best hope for persuading party superdelegates that Obama is a weak candidate for the fall.
One prominent neutral Democrat said Tuesday evening that Obama still had to find a way to win white voters both for the sake of the nomination and for the general election.
"The Obama campaign still has a challenge closing this margin with white ethnic and white working-class voters," said Harold Ford Jr., a former Democratic member of Congress from Tennessee.
Still, despite that issue, Obama regained the front-runner footing that he'd enjoyed in January and February before stumbling in March and April.
Time and math are on his side. With only four weeks left of voting, and only 217 delegates left to be awarded in the six contests, Obama has an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates needed to win the nomination.
That means she would need to win 64 percent of the remaining primary delegates to pull ahead of him in that measure — something next to impossible under party rules.
And he's ahead in the popular vote under any scenario — including adding disputed results from Michigan and Florida, according to counts tallied by realclearpolitics.com. His margins ranged from 51,000 to 784,000, depending on which states are counted. (Some caucus states don't release official vote counts but estimates are available.)
Clinton's one hope is that superdelegates would see weakness in Obama's continuing problem in winning over whites. He lost the white vote in both Indiana and North Carolina Tuesday by margins of about 3-2 — a margin that coudl cost the Democrats the election in November, if white working-classing voters were to refuse to support him in November.