WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama entered the final phase of an increasingly nasty US presidential fight on Wednesday, with Clinton saying her decisive Pennsylvania win proved she was the best candidate to lead the Democrats back to the White House.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is greeted by supporters outside a polling station during a campaign stop in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania April 22, 2008. [Agencies]
Clinton's victory boosted her depleted bank account and gave new hope to her struggling campaign, but the New York senator still faced a nearly impossible task trying to overcome Obama's lead in pledged delegates who will help pick the Democratic presidential nominee at the party's convention in August.
Clinton said Obama's failure to knock her out of the race, despite outspending her in Pennsylvania more than 2-to-1, cast doubt on his ability to capture the big states Democrats need in November's election race against Republican John McCain.
"I've won the states we have to win -- Ohio, now Pennsylvania," Clinton told CNN. "If you look at the broad base of support that I have accumulated, it really is the foundation on which we build our victory come the fall."
Both Democratic candidates looked to the next round of contests on May 6 in North Carolina, where Obama is favored, and Indiana, which is considered a toss-up. The two states have a combined 187 delegates at stake.
Obama said he would battle through the final nine contests ending on June 3 and then make his case to the party's undecided superdelegates who are likely to decide the Democratic presidential nominee.
"Once we have I think a pretty strong case to make that we've won more delegates, we've won more states, we've won more votes, then it will be apparent that we'll be in the strongest position to win in November," the Illinois senator told reporters in New Albany, Indiana.
With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Clinton led Obama in Pennsylvania 54.6 percent to 45.4 percent, the state's elections division said.
The win paid immediate financial dividends for Clinton, who by midday had raised $5 million since the polls closed on Tuesday and was aiming for another $5 million more by the end of the day, aides said. Clinton's campaign had more than $10 million in debts at the end of March.
"I would welcome a contribution because we are being outspent," Clinton told supporters in Indianapolis. "It's a tremendous challenge to get your message out when you're being outspent in that way."