COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sen. Hillary Clinton celebrated her victories in Tuesday's Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island presidential primaries as she jetted back to Washington.
Clinton and her campaign aides basked in their triumph of halting Sen. Barack Obama's primary-caucus winning streak at 12 victories and slowing his momentum toward capturing the Democratic presidential nomination.
"For everyone here in Ohio and across America who's ever been counted out, but refused to be knocked out, for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you," Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Columbus.
"We're going on. We're going strong. We're going all the way," she said. "Ohio has written a new chapter in the history of this campaign, and we're just getting started."
Clinton's path to the nomination remains bumpy despite her victories, however, because Obama still leads the New York Democratic senator in pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
Former President Bill Clinton predicted before Tuesday that his wife needed to win both Ohio and Texas to keep her chances alive and to justify, in the minds of many Democratic Party officials, fighting on at least until Pennsylvania's primary on April 22, and perhaps all the way to the convention.
Even with victories in both Texas and Philadelphia, Clinton might have to fight to seat disqualified delegates from Michigan and Florida at the convention. The two states were stripped of their delegates because they violated Democratic National Committee rules by moving up the dates of their primaries. Clinton won both states in uncontested voting.
Her campaign also would have to persuade a majority of super-delegates — unpledged
Democratic Party elders — to choose her over Obama at the convention. She argued Tuesday that she's defeated Obama in most of the big states that Democrats need to carry in November, including California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Florida.
On Tuesday night, however, she shied away from what-if scenarios, indicating that she'll use her win in Ohio to justify continuing her campaign.
"No person has ever won the White House without winning the Ohio primary, so I think winning Ohio is pretty important," Clinton said in an interview with a Columbus television station as she awaited election results. " . . . For me, winning Ohio would be a validation, and I think it would send a real shock wave across the country."
"The voters are not ready for this to be over," she added. "They want to be sure they (are) picking the person who would be the strongest nominee against John McCain."
Clinton started the day with a sense of confidence as she greeted voters and supporters at a polling center at a school in a largely Hispanic neighborhood in Houston. On the stump in Texas and Ohio, Clinton presented a hopeful message along with a strong populist pitch.
But Clinton's messages at rallies were backed up by hard-fisted�political tactics. She seized upon the Obama camp's mishandling of a meeting between his campaign's economic adviser and a Canadian government official, in which the adviser told the Canadian that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was more for political consumption than for real policy change.
Her campaign also pressed reporters to ask Obama tough questions about his relationship with Tony Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer who's on trial for corruption. Obama aides complained that Clinton's tactics were negative. Clinton called them kid's stuff by campaign standards.
"This is one of the most civil and positive primary campaigns I can remember," Clinton told reporters in Houston. "There are contrasts, and it's imperative that those contrasts are drawn because voters in the Democratic primaries have to decide who they think will be both the best president and the best nominee. You can't do that unless you put out your record and what the differences are."