AUSTIN — Sen. Hillary Clinton watched a 20-point lead evaporate in little over a month but mounted a furious weekend sprint in which she consolidated her advantages with female and Hispanic voters to burst past Sen. Barack Obama in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary, an analysis of election-night returns and exit polls shows.
The results show that the race for Texas played out in two stages.
Obama, fueled by high turnout and equally high excitement in most of the state's urban centers, carved out a narrow win in early voting. But on primary day, Clinton more than made up the lost ground by chipping away at her rival's strongholds without suffering significant erosion of her own support.
Here is a look inside the machinery that propelled Clinton to victory in Texas:
Clinton began her battle for Texas in the Mexican border region and gave no quarter. When she was not in the region, it seemed that her husband, the former president, was on patrol. The result: She won the Laredo area with nearly 80 percent of the vote, the McAllen area with about 75 percent and Brownsville with almost 70 percent.
Exit polls showed that women accounted for about 57 percent of the Democratic turnout, and Clinton won an estimated 54 percent of that voting bloc. Her strongest showing was among Hispanic women, where she won nearly 7 of 10 votes. Her share among white women was nearly 6 of 10. Obama led among male voters, but not with the same commanding margins, the exit polls showed.
Obama won big among African-Americans, with almost 85 percent of the vote, exit polls showed. But blacks made up only about 20 percent of the turnout. He also won most of the urban counties. Harris County (Houston) went 56 percent for Obama, according to unofficial returns. In Dallas County and Travis County (Austin), he piled up about 62 percent of the vote. Tarrant County (Fort Worth) was Obama country, too, at 54 percent.
The late deciders
Clinton benefited from the voters who told pre-election pollsters that they were undecided. According to exit polls, nearly 3 in 10 voters did not settle on their choice until the final week of the race.
Among those who made up their minds on Tuesday, nearly 55 percent went for Clinton. Among those who decided in the last three days, almost 7 in 10 gravitated toward Clinton.
County-by-county returns paint a clear picture of how the late deciders affected the race. In early voting, Obama won nearly 60 percent of the vote in Tarrant County. By primary day, Clinton had halved that. The same held true in Harris County where Obama's 62 percent early-voting lead was whittled down to 56 percent.
Down to the issues
Sherri Greenberg, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said many voters, especially women, were impressed with Clinton's stretch drive in which she emphasized her experience and her fighting spirit.