Clinton stays cool as ice-storm heads in

Sensing the possibility of an 11th-hour reversal of fortune in her favour, a newly energised Hillary Clinton made one final tear across Ohio and Texas, urging her supporters to rally their friends and families today for what she called "a big vote for a big decision".

With the future of her presidential campaign on the line, Senator Clinton emphasised again and again that she is a fighter who won't quit now and won't quit if she ever gets back to the White House.

She was, she told cheering supporters at her final election eve rally in Austin, the Texas capital, as idealistic and determined to change the country now as she was as a 24-year-old volunteer registering Hispanic voters in South Texas in 1972. All that had changed, she said, was that she was older. "I have," she said to laughter and applause, "earned every wrinkle on my face."

The former First Lady appeared heartened by evidence that some of the mud she has spent the past week hurling at her Democratic primary opponent, Barack Obama, may at last be sticking. Senator Obama, who closed out his own campaign with a typically packed appearance three hours' drive away from her in Houston, found himself on the defensive on several fronts – fending off accusations that his campaign had privately told the Canadian government not to take his populist anti-free trade rhetoric too seriously, and distancing himself from a former donor, Chicago property developer Tony Rezko, who went on trial yesterday on political corruption charges.

He has also had to answer charges that he isn't seasoned enough to handle a full-blown national security crisis – the subject of a controversial Clinton scare advert featuring sleeping children and a phone ringing in the middle of the night – and battle against a long-standing rumour that he is Muslim. (He is in fact a practising Christian.)

As much as possible, Senator Obama has sought to turn the accusation back on his attackers. He called a special news conference to point out that the Clintons were the original promoters of the North American Free Trade Agreement – a treaty with Mexico and Canada widely blamed by struggling working-class Democrats for chasing jobs and companies out of the United States.

He put out an advert of his own to suggest that what he may lack in experience, Senator Clinton lacks in judgement – starting with her vote to authorise the Iraq war. He did his best to portray the Rezko scandal as old news and the trial as something that had little or nothing to do with him.

At the very least, though, Mr Obama lost control of both his own campaign message and the storyline being peddled on the television news and the cable chat shows in the all-important 24 hours leading up to the vote. Final tracking polls in both Ohio and Texas, the two key battlegrounds, suggested movement away from him. Despite multiple caveats about the reliability of polls in this see-saw of a primary campaign, he is still the favourite to win Texas – albeit by a small margin – but could lose Ohio by as much as 10 points.

In the two smaller contests also taking place today, Mrs Clinton is expected to win Rhode Island, while Mr Obama was on course to take Vermont.

Mrs Clinton's own husband, former president Bill Clinton, has acknowledged she needs to win both Ohio and Texas to snag the Democratic presidential nomination. Whatever her own feelings, she is likely to come under relentless pressure from her party to pull out if she loses one or both.

There is, however, a possible grey area somewhere between victory and defeat. If she loses Texas only by a tiny margin, or if – as is distinctly possible under the Lone Star State's arcane rules – she wins the popular vote but loses the delegate count, she may still try to make the case that the tide has turned and she has reason to keep campaigning for the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Complicating matters further was the weather. Forecasters predicted a withering ice-storm across much of northern Ohio, which could not only keep some voters away but could also knock out power at polling stations. In Texas, the area around Dallas in the north of the state was under a highly unusual snow alert, and the rest of the state was shivering in cold temperatures and bitter high winds.

None of that seemed to deter Senator Clinton at her final rally in Austin. Before she spoke, she sent a cheerleader out to warm up the crowd and teach them chants in preparation for tomorrow night's caucuses which will follow on directly from the close of the primary polls under Texas's peculiar hybrid system. "When I say 'Hillary', you say 'Texas'," the cheerleader yelled. "When I say 'Madam', you say 'President'!"

Mrs Clinton engaged in some cheerleading of her own by the end of her speech. "I'm ready if you are willing," she said. "Let's go out and make history tomorrow."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there