Hillary Rodham Clinton scored comeback primary wins in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island yesterday, denting Barack Obama’s delegate lead in a riveting Democratic presidential race. Arizona Sen. John McCain, an unflinching supporter of the war in Iraq, clinched the Republican nomination.

Clif Reeder

Clinton’s three triumphs ended a month of defeats for the former first lady, and she told jubilant supporters, “We’re going on, we’re going strong and we’re going all the way.”

Obama won the Vermont primary, and sought to counter Clinton’s claims that the night had been a race-altering event. “We have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning and we are on our way to winning this nomination,” he told supporters in Texas.

The two rivals also competed for support in caucuses in Texas that began 15 minutes after the state’s primary polls closed.

Both Democrats called McCain – a Senate colleague – to congratulate him on his triumph in the Republican race.

The 71-year-old Arizona senator surpassed the 1,191 delegates needed to win his party’s nomination. President Bush invited him to lunch – and an endorsement – at the White House on Wednesday.

McCain’s last remaining major rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, conceded defeat after a campaign that included a stunning victory in the leadoff Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.

Kinesiology senior Allison Schneider, chair of Students for McCain, said the next step for the group will be to reach out to other conservative groups on campus and recruit volunteers to help campaign for McCain.

Clinton won the Rhode Island primary with more than 58 percent of the vote. But Ohio and Texas were the big trophies of the night, rich in delegates and – according to Bill Clinton – must-win states for his wife.

Her share of the Ohio vote was 55 percent in nearly complete returns, and she was winning nearly 51 percent in Texas. Obama was gaining roughly 60 percent of the Vermont vote.

In the four-state competition for delegates, Clinton picked up at least 100, to at least 77 for Obama. Nearly 200 more remained to be allocated for the night, 163 of them in the Texas primary and caucuses.

Obama had a total of 1,466 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates, according to the Associated Press count. He picked up three superdelegate endorsements Tuesday, Clinton had 1,376 delegates. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

LSA sophomore Tom Duvall, chair of Students for Obama, said he’s still confident that Obama’s delegates will ultimately win him the nomination.

LSA sophomore Kelly Bernero, chair of Students for Hillary, said Clinton’s victories will give her campaign more momentum.

“I think that it’s a really great day for the Clinton campaign and supporters,” she said. “It’s going to make Hillary look like a real fighter and tough as nails.”

-Emily Barton contributed to this report.

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