Clinton enjoys a big night as Ohio/Texas firewall holds

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday night that she is “going all the way,” and the former first lady got the wins she needed to do so.

Clinton prevailed in three of four contests Tuesday night, picking up wins in the in Ohio and Texas, the two major prizes of the day, as well as a victory in Rhode Island. The wins, Clinton’s first in almost a month, are ensuring that the former first lady is stunting rival Sen. Barack Obama’s (Ill.) momentum and continuing her campaign.

“We’re going on, we’re going strong and so is this campaign,” Clinton said after winning Ohio. The New York senator planned a blitz of the morning shows Wednesday in an effort to try and capitalize on the momentum she earned Tuesday night.

In the closing days before the crucial contests – which no less than former President Bill Clinton deemed vital to her continuing on – the Clinton campaign combined more fierce attacks on Obama with renewed efforts of showing the former first lady’s “human side” to great success.

On the first score, the campaign intensified its efforts of painting Obama as not ready to be commander-in-chief, running a powerful ad that questioned whether the Illinois senator was prepared for an international emergency. In Ohio, the Clinton campaign pushed hard the story that an Obama adviser had told Canadian officials that the Obama’s talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was just “political positioning.”

On the other side of the coin, Clinton launched a charm offensive, making appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, both to wide acclaim.

Obama, who remains the frontrunner had clearly hoped for a knock-out punch Tuesday night, and both candidates campaigned furiously over the last two weeks.

The Obama campaign continues to lead in the delegate count, and the Illinois senator said in the end it’s the math that matters.

But Clinton, after losing 12 contests in a row – including Vermont earlier Tuesday evening – clearly established that she is still very much in the race. The New York senator claimed early Wednesday morning that she now has the momentum.

In winning Tuesday’s contests, Clinton also laid further claim to the biggest states in the country. The New York senator was able to add two big jewels to a crown that includes California, New York and New Jersey. She also won Florida and Michigan, but none of the candidates campaigned there.

Now all eyes turn to Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary.

The Keystone State is the largest prize remaining on the Democratic primary schedule, and voters there will not go to the polls for more than a month and a half.

In between, the Obama campaign has expressed confidence that it will do well in this weekend’s Wyoming caucuses and next Tuesday’s Mississippi primary.

In Pennsylvania, Clinton continues to enjoy a lead in the polls and the support of Gov. Ed Rendell.

The state will no doubt become a fierce battleground, as both candidates scorch the ground with campaign stops and extensive ads.

But for now, Clinton has successfully beat back Democratic Party leaders who were suggesting she should withdraw if she lost Texas and Ohio.

“You know what they say – as Ohio goes so goes the nation,” Clinton said Tuesday night. “Well, this nation’s coming back, and so is this campaign.”

Earlier in the evening, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) wrapped up the Republican nomination after winning all four contests. If there was any doubt left, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, McCain’s last remaining serious challenger, withdrew from the race Tuesday night.

Now McCain is set to start the process of leading his party. The senator is set to have lunch at the White House with President Bush Wednesday, followed by a press conference during which the president is expected to officially endorse the Arizona senator.