It was slightly past 10:30 when Hillary Clinton stepped onto the Indianapolis stage, accompanied by husband Bill, daughter Chelsea, and steadfast supporter Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, to give part victory speech, part appeal for donations, and part call for party reconciliation. Barack Obama had blown her away by 14 percentage points in North Carolina, and at that moment, Indiana was too close to call.
"Not too long ago, my opponent made a prediction," she said. "He said I would probably win Pennsylvania, he would win North Carolina, and Indiana would be the tiebreaker."
At this, the crowd roared.
"Well, tonight we've come from behind, we've broken the tie, and thanks to you, it's full speed on to the White House," she continued.
But it wouldn't be until just after 1 a.m. on the East Coast when the cable networks began calling the senator from New York the "apparent" winner of the tight race in Indiana. Results were slow to trickle in from Monroe County, where Indiana University-Bloomington is located, and even slower in Lake County, the home of a large African-American population and close to Chicago, Obama's home turf. Both went to Obama but not heavily enough to overtake Clinton's nightlong Indiana lead, and she squeezed out a win by 2 percentage points.
Despite her slim win, it seems the long Democratic fight could potentially be dwindling to a close, and Clinton partially acknowledged that.
"No matter what happens, I will work for the nominee of the Democratic Party because we must win in November," Clinton said midway through her speech in Indianapolis, attempting to assuage Democrats' fears that the drawn-out nomination battle had splintered the party.
The scene was different in North Carolina. As the polls were closing around 7:30, Obama was immediately announced the winner. The word came down so quickly that the doors weren't even open yet at the venue where he was to speak in Raleigh. Once they were, and 3,000 supporters flooded inside, there was no uncertainty that he had won the state decisively.
"You know, some were saying that North Carolina would be a game-changer in this election," Obama told supporters. "But today, what North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, D.C."
Clinton cut into Obama's longtime lead in the polls in North Carolina in the days before the election, and the Clinton campaign had even hinted at an upset. In Indiana, she had overtaken him in some polls and remained within the margin of error in others. She had been campaigning strongly, preaching populism and advocating a gas-tax holiday hoping to provide Americans some relief at the pumps. Obama, on the other hand, had been coming off one of the worst periods since his campaign began 15 months ago. His former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had resurfaced and wreaked media havoc on Obama's campaign for several days leading up to yesterday's primaries.
But in the end, Obama seemed to hold on firmly to his reliable voting blocs in North Carolina and did a little better than expected with them in Indiana. The reason? Obama's campaign had long argued that the candidate would perform better in Indiana than he did in Pennsylvania because of the close proximity to his home state Illinois, and he did win Lake County, which borders Illinois.
"The western part of Indiana and the northern part of Indiana were more familiar with Senator Obama," said Edward Carmines, a professor of political science at Indiana University-Bloomington. "I think he already had a little more familiarity there, they were a little more open to his campaign, and they were a little more comfortable with him."
As in other contests, Obama won the African-American vote heavily. In North Carolina, 34 percent of those voting were black, and 9 out of 10 voted for Obama. In Indiana, while the number of African-Americans who voted was far fewer and in turn made the race there a lot tighter, 9 out of 10 favored Obama. He also did well among the young and well-educated. And he did better among women—who have flip-flopped between Clinton and Obama all primary season—than he had in Pennsylvania and Ohio.