Her money drained and her options dwindling, a resolute Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed on Wednesday to press on with her presidential bid even as she and top advisers were hard-pressed to describe a realistic path for her to wrest the nomination from Senator Barack Obama.
After a wrenching primary outcome on Tuesday in which she was routed in North Carolina and barely won Indiana, Clinton made a hastily scheduled trip to West Virginia to show her determination to fight on. The state holds a primary on Tuesday.
“I’m so happy to be here in West Virginia and excited about the next week as we campaign here in this beautiful state about our country’s future,” Clinton told an audience at Shepherd University.
She planned to return to the state yesterday, then fly to South Dakota and Oregon, which also have upcoming contests.
Also on Wednesday, aides disclosed that Clinton had lent her campaign US$6.4 million since the middle of last month, on top of a separate US$5 million loan in February. She contributed US$5 million on April 11, US$1 million on May 1 and US$425,000 on May 5.
Spokesman Howard Wolfson said the New York senator made the investment to keep pace with Obama, who has shattered all fundraising records and vastly outspent her in recent contests.
The loan also reinforced her belief that the campaign must continue, Wolfson said, suggesting she would be willing to spend more of her own wealth if necessary.
“This is a sign of her commitment to this race, her commitment to this process and her commitment to ensure the voices of her supporters are heard,” Wolfson said.
Nonetheless, Tuesday’s results drastically reshaped the dynamic of the campaign, positioning Obama as the all-but-certain nominee and casting Clinton as a dogged also-ran.
At least one prominent Democrat, Clinton supporter and former South Dakota senator George McGovern, called on Clinton to quit the race. Others held back, allowing her to assess the landscape and draw her own conclusion about how to proceed.
But at a news conference in West Virginia, the former first lady showed no sign of going anywhere.
“I’m staying in this race until there’s a nominee,” she said.
Clinton barely mentioned Obama but insisted, as she has throughout the race, that she would be the stronger candidate against Republican Senator John McCain.
While Obama has run strongest among blacks, college educated and younger voters and has produced record turnout among all three groups, Clinton pointed to her own strength among Hispanics and white, working-class voters, especially women.
She noted they are the swing voters Democrats need to win a general election.
Wolfson and chief strategist Geoff Garin echoed that argument in a conference call with reporters. They also described a scenario they said would keep her candidacy alive, including resolving disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan. Clinton won both contests but the results were voided because their timing violated Democratic Party rules.
But Clinton’s team acknowledged that even if both states’ delegations were seated, she would still not close the gap with Obama, who leads Clinton by about 150 delegates.
Clinton said on Wednesday that she would be sending a letter to Obama and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean expressing her view that seating the Florida and Michigan delegations is a civil rights and voting rights issue.
Garin sought to put the best face on a bad turn of events, touting what he called a “come from behind” win in Indiana and saying the campaign had long expected her to lose North Carolina.
In fact, the campaign made an aggressive play in that state, nearly matching Obama in television ad spending in the closing days.
Clinton also campaigned extensively in the state and her husband kept a separate, packed schedule of appearances — all to little avail.
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