(dpa) - While John McCain sealed the Republican nomination, Hillary Clinton roared back into contention with big- state victories in Texas and Ohio, a comeback that promises to drag out the Democratic race for weeks - or even months.
Clinton still narrowly trails Obama in the delegate count, but her victories Tuesday in the two big states and tiny Rhode Island breathed new life into her faltering campaign and snapped Barack Obama's 11-state winning streak.
Obama easily won in Vermont, another very small state, and remained in a strong position to win the nomination for the November 4 presidential election, mainly because he will be awarded his proportion of delegates in the states that sided with Clinton.
The former first lady's comeback reignited a suspenseful Democratic campaign featuring two senators vying to make history. Obama, 46, would be the first black president and Clinton, 60, could be the first woman to occupy the White House.
The next big primary takes place in Pennsylvania on April 22, and there will be smaller contests in Wyoming Saturday and Mississippi later this month. Early polling shows that Clinton is the preferred choice among Democrats in Pennsylvania and has already won all of the big states that have cast ballots. Obama, however, has proven successful at piling up the smaller states.
Obama hoped coming into Tuesday that by prevailing in Texas he could virtually knock the New York senator out of the race. Even former president Bill Clinton publicly acknowledged that his wife had to win both big states to keep her campaign alive.
Clinton was holding a small lead in pre-election surveys in Ohio, but trounced the Illinois senator with a victory margin exceeding 10 percentage points.
"You know what they say - as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. Well, this nation's coming back, and so is this campaign," Clinton told ecstatic supporters in Columbus, Ohio.
Texas looked bleaker for Clinton heading into Tuesday vote. Polls showed that after previously leading, she had fallen into a dead heat with Obama. But she edged him out in the tight race. Obama congratulated Clinton on her performance while expressing confidence his campaign was on track to win the nomination.
"We know this: No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning," Obama said in San Antonio, Texas. "And we are on our way to winning this nomination."
With 11 states remaining, the Democratic race could run into the summer, and the tone between the Clinton and Obama camps could grow nastier and divide the party. McCain could stand to benefit the most from Clinton's re-emergence.
The Arizona senator finished off his last Republican challenger on Tuesday by handily defeating Mike Huckabee in all four contests, giving him enough delegates to formally clinch the Republican nod, allow his campaign to build up its financial war chest, and plot strategies to take on Obama and Clinton.
Many Democrats are already worried that a drawn out race between Obama and Clinton will drain the party's fundraising resources and make it difficult to unite behind a single candidate in time for the convention in Denver, Colorado in August.
Some Democrats, believing Obama's nomination was inevitable, had urged Clinton to drop out of the race. But Clinton steadfastly refused, continuing to insist that her experience in Washington made her the superior candidate and launched negative attacks against Obama.
She tried to show a lighter side to her frigid image by appearing on popular comedy shows in the last week to poke fun at herself. At the same time, she griped that Obama was getting a free ride by the media while her every move was scrutinized.
Clinton had already demonstrated an astuteness for political comebacks. After badly losing in first contest in Iowa in January, she stormed back to win in ultra-important New Hampshire. Ever since, the Democratic race has been an historic roller coaster ride, and - for the time being - there is no end in sight.