By Regis L. Roberts
Clinton revives her campaign after 11 consecutive losses to Obama.
Tuesday was the day Texas Democrats were looking forward to, and Democrats backing the senator from New York were having a particularly good night.
Texas’ primary race was close all night between Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Clinton supporters from all over San Antonio flocked to the Norris Convention Center at Crossroads to watch CNN coverage of primary results.
Early on, after polls closed and some precincts were finishing the caucuses, Obama was maintaining a slim lead in Texas with 50 percent of the vote compared with Clinton’s 48 percent.
As the night progressed, Clinton started closing in.
By about 9:45 p.m., CNN displayed numbers showing Obama’s lead was erased and the vote was tied at 49-49. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer zoomed the screen on the vote count showing Clinton edging out Obama by about 2,000 votes, a figure that garnered the loudest cheers from the crowd gathered at Norris up to that point.
Gilbert Salinas, a criminal justice freshman at St. Philip’s College, jumped up and down, waving a white “Hillary for President” yard sign by its stakes.
Wearing a big, brown cowboy hat, Salinas said it was fun to be around people who voted the same way he did.
His said his support for Clinton boils down to trust, saying that Obama gives people “the run around.”
“In Texas, your word’s as good as a handshake,” he said. Sign-waving enthusiasts weren’t the only ones pumping up the crowd.
Many of the supporters trickled in late because of large turnouts at their precinct caucuses; at one point in the night, there were about 400 supporters.
Many of them showed up just in time to see Clinton take the lead at just after 10 p.m. with 50 percent to 49 percent, a figure she maintained until she was declared winner of Texas’ primary.
Texas’ caucus has yet to be determined, but polls show Obama leading in the high 50 percent range.
Surprisingly enough, the largest shouts of the night came following CNN’s projection that Clinton won Ohio’s primary.
Many people said their precinct caucuses were heavily trafficked.
Statistics freshman Juan Hernandez, who went to Phoenix to volunteer for Clinton in advance of Super Tuesday, said he voted early and caucused Tuesday.
He said about 100 people showed up to caucus and Clinton supporters outnumbered Obama supporters about 10-1.
State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said his precinct had 200 people show up for the caucus with 70 percent going for Clinton.
Castro said he was surprised by the high turnout, saying there was a lot of excitement not only among Democrats, but with the electorate as a whole.
Lashon Wilson’s experience at her caucus was unique among the crowd in that her precinct with about 120 people favored Obama.
“It got kind of crazy, but I maintained coolness and we all ended up Democrats by the time we left, which was very important,” Wilson said.
She said Clinton’s strength and record, especially on health care, are what draws her to the candidate.
Wilson said she has agreed with Clinton on health care since 1993 when Clinton served as chair of the President’s Task Force on Health Care Reform. In that position, Clinton championed giving insurance buyers more options at reduced prices to insure as many Americans as possible.
The plan failed after being attacked by Republicans and conservative Democrats, but she has revived her efforts as a presidential candidate.
As the night wound down, approaching midnight, bigwigs of local Democratic politics addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support of Clinton in Texas.
The work of supporters and the strength of the candidates is “reason that all of the national pundits are going to have to start to eat some crow tomorrow,” state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said.
“Did we win this thing, or what?” Castro asked rhetorically.
“I think the most exciting thing is to know that we are truly on the way and on the road to the White House,” said Choco Meza, campaign coordinator for the Clinton campaign for Bexar County
“Now I’m going to tell you that the most exciting thing for me today was to walk in and to hear people tell me, ‘I’m the chairman of my precinct convention,’ ‘I’m the secretary,’ ‘I’m a delegate,’” Meza said.
This primary season has brought out people who did not participate in the process, including people who had no idea about caucuses, she said.