Defeated in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama quickly turned his attention to the next opportunity to dispense with Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in hopes of facing the Republican nominee-in-waiting.
"We already know that John McCain offers more of the same," the Illinois senator told supporters last night in Evansville. "The question is not whether the other party will bring about change in Washington — the question is, will we?"
More than 7,000 people in Roberts Stadium — rocker John Mellencamp among them — responded by chanting the campaign's theme, "Yes, we can!"
"Now, it's up to you, Evansville. Now it's up to you, Indiana," Obama said. "You can decide whether we're going to travel the same worn path, or whether we chart a new course that offers real hope for the future."
Indiana and North Carolina vote May 6 and are among the last states to voice their preferences in the protracted Democratic nomination fight. Obama leads in the delegate race, but Clinton's must-win victory in Pennsylvania kept her candidacy alive.
With Clinton favored to win Pennsylvania, Obama's plane took off from Philadelphia just as the polls were closing. He was in the air when Clinton was declared the winner, and he learned the outcome upon landing.
When Obama took the stage he immediately congratulated Clinton on her victory. The crowd responded with boos.
"No, no. She ran a terrific race," he said.
Obama took comfort in making the Pennsylvania primary less than a blowout for Clinton, arguing that he was able to register a record number of voters, rally people of all backgrounds to his campaign and narrow Clinton's lead.
"Six weeks later, we closed the gap," he said.
He did not mention Clinton directly again, but he drew contrasts when he talked about the choice Democrats face as they weigh who is the strongest one to go up against McCain in the fall.
In a double-barreled criticism of both his rivals, the freshman Illinois senator said: "We can't afford to keep doing what we've been doing for another four years. We can't afford to play the same Washington games with the same Washington players and expect a different result. Not this time. Not now."
He added: "We can seek to regain not just an office, but the trust of the American people that their leaders in Washington will tell them the truth. That's the choice in this election."
Obama then turned to McCain with a full-throated criticism of the Arizona senator, assailing him anew as wrong on Iraq and wrong on the economy.
"We already know what we're getting from the other party's nominee," Obama said, adding that while McCain has offered the country a lifetime of service, "what he's not offering is any meaningful change from the policies of George W. Bush."
As Obama's entourage boarded the plane in Philadelphia, two of his senior advisers wore T-shirts that said "Stop the Drama, Vote Obama."