Politics & Government

Obama concedes defeat in Pennsylvania, but looks to victories ahead

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Two of his top aides wore "Stop the drama, vote Obama" T-shirts on the campaign plane from Pennsylvania to Indiana on Tuesday night as the votes were being tallied.

But if Barack Obama thought that he'd overtake Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, a big swing state where she'd once been 20 points ahead and had family ties, and that such a win might force her out of the Democratic contest for president — it was not to be.

"I want to start by congratulating Senator Clinton on the victory this evening," he told the crowd of some 7,000 at Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville, in the southwest corner of the state. "She ran a terrific race."

So Obama took his lumps and looked ahead to Indiana, whose May 6 primary he recently said could be the "tiebreaker."

"There were a lot of folks who didn't think we could make this a race when it started," he said. "We closed the gap. ... We registered a record number of voters, and it is those new voters who will lead our party to victory in November."

Obama still leads nationally in the popular vote, the number of states won and the pledged delegate count. But the Pennsylvania loss underscores his trouble winning large diverse states and his difficulty winning over white working-class voters in places with sizable black populations and tough economic times.

Obama and his supporters say that those who raise these concerns are voicing spin, but the candidate conceded before the polls had even closed that "this race will continue until the last primary or caucus vote is cast" in June.

His decision to end the night in Indiana allowed him to look ahead to the primary there, which he believes he has a good chance of winning, partly because of its proximity to his home state of Illinois.

In the audience, Rob Shrode, 28, said he thinks Obama can win Indiana because he's starting out with stronger support than in other states, including Pennsylvania. "He's shown wherever he is he can gain ground," Shrode said.

But Jessie Cuevas, 29, who prefers Clinton even though she attended the Obama event, said she questions Obama's electability nationally because of "the fact of race and his experience."

As election days go, Pennsylvania's had a few twists.

Obama learned that Bill Clinton in a Philadelphia radio interview had accused the Obama campaign of playing the "race card" and twisting his words during the South Carolina primary to try to make him look racist and hurt his wife's campaign. Obama was incredulous.

Then came a revelation that a Clinton supporter had swiped the remains of Obama's waffle and sausage breakfast on Monday in Scranton and was trying to sell them on eBay to raise money for Clinton.

Later, Obama had a cheesesteak at Pat's King of Steaks in South Philly, and his communications director Robert Gibbs dropped $20 on the "drama" T-shirts that a Philly street vendor was selling. He gave the second shirt to strategist David Axelrod.

Visiting Indiana two weeks ago, Obama anticipated that Clinton could win Pennsylvania and that he'd win North Carolina on May 6. In that case, he said, Indiana "may end up being the tiebreaker." But on Tuesday he acknowledged that even a win in both states might not end it.

After the Indiana speech, the senator was headed home to Chicago, to sleep in his own bed and have breakfast Wednesday morning with his daughters, Sasha, 6, and Malia, 9, whom he hadn't seen in days. Then he was to head back to Indiana later in the day for more of the long campaign.

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