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Obama wears the bravest of faces in his camp

Times Staff Writer

In Sen. Barack Obama’s parallel universe, also known as election night in the Alamo City, you’d never know that the television networks had just declared his rival the winner of the Ohio primary.

You wouldn’t know that Hillary Rodham Clinton had squeaked a few percentage points ahead of Obama in Texas. You wouldn’t, in fact, know much of anything.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, in the plaza outside of the stately 1920s Municipal Auditorium where Obama supporters were gathered ostensibly to celebrate, the big-screen TV wasn’t broadcasting election results.

Shortly after Sen. John McCain declared victory in the Republican presidential race, someone had switched off CNN in favor of inspirational pictures of Obama on the campaign trail.

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Obama’s top strategists -- who regularly mill about parsing results when the Illinois senator is having a good night -- were late arrivals. So far, this was not a good night.

If anything, it was a night of stiff upper lips, starting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was hanging around the TV cameras under the inky sky. “We’re waiting with bated breath,” he said, “hoping for a victory tonight.”

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, an Obama supporter and this district’s Democratic congressman, paced the VIP section of the chilly outdoor event working on his optimism. “It’s close at this point,” Gonzalez said, an “improvement over where people thought we’d be.” It’s early -- yeah, that too. “There’s not a lot of reporting out of Harris County,” home to sprawling Houston and an ample African American community.

Said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist: “I think when Texas is heard from, what we’re going to have is essentially the same lead we had when we started the day.”

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Twenty minutes or so later, and Clinton was on stage in Columbus, Ohio, giving her first victory speech in quite some time. Here in San Antonio, the speakers blasted R&B; hits.

When Obama finally took to the podium, his was the stiffest lip of all. His win streak was broken. Texas was still up in the air, but it would eventually be called for Clinton. The race for the Democratic presidential nomination stretched out weeks into the future.

“We know this,” he declared, as the breeze kicked up. “No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination.”

Stay tuned.

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maria.laganga@latimes.com


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