WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton pressed ahead with her long-shot presidential bid on Wednesday, putting a brave face on a slim victory in Indiana and vowing to fight on until the last state Democratic primaries are concluded.
The New York senator, whose loss to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in North Carolina on Tuesday added to his nearly insurmountable lead in the race for their party’s nomination, projected a defiant tone at a fundraising event honoring women.
“I’ve been counted out more than once. But thanks to all of you, I’ve come back,” she told the crowd of mostly women, many of whom urged her to continue competing.
“I am in this race. I am staying in this race,” she said to applause. “Too many people have fought too hard to see a woman continue in this race.”
Clinton said she planned to send a letter to Obama and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean saying that disqualified primary elections in Florida and Michigan were a “civil rights issue” and “a voting rights issue.”
The former first lady needs the votes from those two elections to count in order to close the gap with Obama’s big lead in votes and delegates who determine the party’s nominee.
The fundraiser, attended by her daughter, Chelsea, and mother, Dorothy Rodham, came after a day that included a hastily arranged stop in West Virginia, which holds its primary next week.
“It’s a new day, it’s a new state, it’s a new election,” Clinton said after a rally in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Clinton had been scheduled to spend the whole day in Washington, meeting with superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials whose support she needs to overcome Obama’s lead — and holding the fundraiser.
But her advisers said she wanted to show her determination to keep fighting by going out and campaigning. She used the opportunity to remind voters she would compete in all of the remaining state election contests, which wrap up in early June.
“I’m staying in this race until there’s a nominee,” she said. “I obviously am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee.”
Tired campaign staff said Clinton remained “unflappable” and was focused on winning her party’s nomination to face Republican John McCain in the November general election.
At times appearing subdued, the former first lady, who slept about three hours on Tuesday night according to an aide, ran through her campaign speech before a crowd of students in Shepardstown.
She made only brief mention of her proposal to suspend a tax on gasoline this summer.
“I want her to keep fighting until the very end,” said Maggie Lauria, 58, a retired school teacher and Clinton supporter who attended the event.
“I think she has a shot. She’s a fighter. I think when the superdelegates look at the big picture, they may go her way.”
At a news conference Clinton said she had the best chance of beating McCain in the November election, but she did not openly criticize Obama, and kept the news conference short to return to Washington.
“We’re getting on the road again,” she said.
Editing by Chris Wilson