Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., ended her presidential bid Saturday in Washington, D.C., surrounded by supporters, some of whom are devasted and angry that her campaign to become the nation's first woman presidential nominee is over.
And Clinton made gender a central theme of her concession speech.
"I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities that my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about her daughter's future," Clinton said. "To build that future we must understand that women and men alike understand the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers."
"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling, thanks to you it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before," she said.
Clinton invoked the suffragists who fought for women's right to vote and civil rights leaders who advocated on behalf of equal rights for African Americans as she insisted, "The path will be a little easier next time...that has always been the history of progress."
It's a dramatic end to one of the longest, most closely fought primary races in recent history, and one that is unbelievable to many of Clinton's most ardent supporters.
"I don't think that it has completely set in yet," said Karen Defilippi, 25, a Clinton supporter who quit her job at a university in Washington last August to work for Clinton's campaign in Iowa and other primary states.
Defilippi, who is now out of a job, defended Clinton's decision to wait until Wednesday to acknowledge Obama's victory.
"It was just a little too soon for people," said Defilippi. "Her supporters are strong supporters, and I don't think they were ready to accept it."
As the Democratic Party presses for unity, some Clinton supporters believe their candidate was robbed of the nomination by flawed party rules that stripped Florida and Michigan of their votes early on, and allowed the 796 superdelegates to side with whichever candidate they choose.
"I'm saddened because I just don't think he decisively won," said Clinton supporter Dana Marie Kennedy, 40, of Phoenix, who cashed in airline miles to buy a plane ticket from Arizona to Washington to attend Clinton's event Saturday.
If the primaries has been a general election, Kennedy argued, Clinton's Florida and Michigan votes would have be counted and her 17.8 million votes would have won out over Obama's 17.5-million.
"It was the Supreme Court in 2000, and it was the superdelegates in 2008," she said, bitterly.
A year ago, Clinton was the prohibitive front-runner to get her party's nod with support from the Democratic establishment, top Democratic donors, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Over a grueling five-month primary battle, Clinton won broad support from women, Hispanics, older voters and white, blue-collar voters, winning 21 primary contests to Obama's 34, not including Florida and Michigan.
But she finished, according to the ABC News Delegate Tracker, 137 delegates shy of the 2,118 needed to win.
Instead of ending her race and endorsing Obama, Clinton angered some Democrats by saying she'd take a few days to think about her next move.
"She did come close. It was a historic achievement, but she did not win," said Sarah Brewer, 33, of Washington, who plans on going to the Clinton rally with friends.