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Analysis: GOP focuses on November, Dems on each other

  • Story Highlights
  • Clinton's Texas, Ohio wins prevented what could have been a knockout blow
  • Women, Latinos, older voters boost her in Texas; unions, late deciders help in Ohio
  • Obama campaign downplays her wins, emphasizes his lead in pledged delegates
  • McCain to get Bush endorsement, can now fully focus on the general election
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By Alan Silverleib and Mark Preston
CNN Washington Bureau
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- While Sen. John McCain can now fully focus on the general election, the race for the Democratic nomination goes on with no clear end in sight.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton injected a boost into what had been a flagging campaign.

McCain heads to the White House on Wednesday to receive the official blessing of President Bush after officially clinching the Republican presidential nomination.

Sen. Hillary Clinton scored three critical primary wins Tuesday in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, injecting a much-needed boost into what had been a flagging campaign.

Had Barack Obama swept Tuesday's primaries -- he did win Vermont -- there would have been intense pressure on Clinton to withdraw from the race.

Instead, the two Democratic White House hopefuls now turn their attention to Wyoming on Saturday, Mississippi on Tuesday, and far more importantly, the April 22 showdown in Pennsylvania.

Clinton described her Tuesday victories as "a new chapter in this historic campaign," while the Obama campaign sought to downplay her wins by emphasizing his lead in the battle for pledged delegates.

"Tonight was the Clinton campaign's last best chance to make a significant dent in our lead in pledged delegates, and they have failed," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in an early-morning statement. "In our latest projections, we will win the Texas caucus with a double-digit margin, and any pledged delegate shift will be absolutely minimal."

Clinton's win in Texas was based on her strong showing among women, Latinos and voters over the age of 65, according to a CNN exit poll.

Specifically, Clinton carried women by an 11-point margin (55 percent to 44 percent); Latinos supported her by a 36-point margin (67 percent to 31 percent); and voters over 65 backed her by a 37-point margin (67 percent to 30 percent).

In contrast, Obama defeated Clinton among men by 2 points (50 percent to 48 percent); young voters broke in his favor by 16 points (58 percent to 42 percent); and college graduates favored him by 11 points (54 percent to 43 percent).

As expected, Obama also did very well with African-American voters, but it was not enough to overcome Clinton's strong ties to Texas, which date back to the early 1970s. Read about Clinton's Texas ties

Obama was also hurt by the fact that the black share of the overall vote declined from 21 percent in the 2004 Democratic primary to 19 percent in Tuesday's contest.

At the same time, the Latino share of the overall vote increased from 24 percent in 2004 to 34 percent on Tuesday. Clinton carried white voters by a 13-point margin (56 percent to 43 percent).

Tuesday night started off with a bang for Obama as he notched an easy win in Vermont.

But as the evening wore on, the tide began to turn in Clinton's favor as she scored her first victory in Rhode Island. Later, just before 11 p.m. ET, Clinton won a long-awaited victory in Ohio. Nearly two hours later, Clinton learned she won Texas.

Clinton's victory in Ohio can be attributed to, among other factors, her strong support from union voters, voters over 65 and late deciders, according to a CNN exit poll.

Clinton won the union vote by a 12-point margin (55 percent to 43 percent); older voters backed her over Obama by a stunning 46-point margin (72 percent to 26 percent); and Ohio voters who decided in the last 72 hours backed her by an 18-point margin (58 percent to 40 percent).

Meanwhile, Obama held his base by carrying young voters, blacks and college-educated voters. Still, it was not enough.

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With the March 4 primaries now in the rearview mirror, expect Clinton and Obama to hit the fundraising circuit in order to help pay for what are sure to be expensive get-out-the vote operations and television advertising campaigns in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, McCain will likely work overtime building up his campaign war chest to help level the playing field against what is sure to be an extremely well-funded Democratic opponent in the fall. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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