Clinton stays alive

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2008

WASHINGTON — Still the underdog in a contest that won’t quit, Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled off a feisty act of political survival in the Pennsylvania primary, defeating Barack Obama to keep her Democratic presidential hopes alive.

The New York senator’s comfortable win sends the race on to North Carolina, where the flush-with-money Obama is favored; and Indiana, where the two are close.

Obama was able to stave off an eyebrow-arching blowout by Clinton even while falling short in his effort to bring the polarizing competition effectively to a close. Clinton beat him by about 10 points.

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‘‘Some counted me out and said to drop out,’’ the former first lady told Philadelphia supporters who roared their disapproval of that idea and cheered her victory in a state where Obama outspent her 2-to-1. ‘‘But the American people don’t quit. And they deserve a president who doesn’t quit, either.’’

In a round of television interviews Wednesday morning, Clinton argued that she’s the stronger candidate to take on Republican John McCain because she’s won big swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

‘‘The fair question is if you can’t win the states we have to win in the fall maybe that says something about your general election appeal,’’ Clinton told CNN.

Their Keystone state matchup was fierce and bitter, which seemed to harden attitudes among Democrats even as McCain tended to the unification of the GOP and campaigned across the country in preparation for the fall. Only half of each Democrat’s supporters said they would be satisfied if the other Democrat won the nomination, according to interviews with voters as they left polling stations.

‘‘After 14 long months, it’s easy to forget what this campaign’s about from time to time,’’ Obama told an Evansville, Ind., rally, obliquely conceding that the Pennsylvania race turned nasty.

‘‘It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics, the bickering that none of us are entirely immune to, and it trivializes the profound issues: two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril, issues that confront our nation.