"We fought the good fight and finished the race," he said. "We would have liked to have finished it first, but we stayed in it until the race is over. But I think more importantly we kept the faith. I'd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place."
Loyal coalitions for each
Among Democrats, the exit polls showed two political heavyweights, each claiming strong loyalties and almost evenly matched coalitions.
Clinton regained an advantage she had lost in recent primaries among Democratic base voters.
In Texas and Ohio, Clinton carried 55% of voters who have less than a college education. In contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and Virginia, she won just 36%-43% of those voters.
She carried 61% of white voters in Ohio and 55% in Texas. In the Virginia and Wisconsin primaries, Obama had won a majority of white voters.
And Clinton carried Latinos by nearly 2-1 — and their turnout jumped, a boost for her.
Hispanics made up 24% of the electorate in the 2004 Democratic primary, 30% this time. Obama narrowly led among younger Hispanics, those under 30.
For his part, Obama won more than 80% of black voters in Texas and nearly 90% in Ohio. He trounced Clinton among voters under 30, carrying them by more than 20 points in Texas and by nearly 30 points in Ohio.
Obama continued to show strength among independents and even Republicans, who made up about a third of the Democratic primary vote in Texas and Ohio.
The clearest divide between the two rivals was over the characteristics voters thought were most important in a presidential nominee:
•Four in 10 voters in both states said they most wanted someone who "can bring about needed change." They supported Obama by nearly 3-1.
•One in four said they wanted the candidate who "has the right experience." Those voters supported Clinton by more than 9-1.
When it came to issues, the economy decisively trumped other concerns, including the war in Iraq, in both big states.
Six in 10 Ohioans called the economy the most important issue facing the nation. They tended to favor Clinton. Iraq was ranked first by one in five Ohio voters. Most of them supported Obama.
Economic angst also was reflected in deepening skepticism toward trade deals with other countries, such as NAFTA.
In Ohio, where many manufacturing plants have moved abroad, Democratic voters by 8-1 said trade with other countries costs more jobs than it creates.
Even in Texas, which has benefited more from trade with Mexico, Democrats agreed by more than 2-1.
Winter weather in Ohio created some problems at the polls. At least 10 precincts requested permission to move to other locales, and power outages forced a few polling places to run on generators.
A judge agreed to hold open the polls in Sandusky County and some in Cuyahoga, hit by an ice storm, until 9 p.m. to allow voters an extra hour and a half to get there.
Ballots ran out earlier in the day, forcing election workers to turn away several hundred people.
Math and momentum
At stake on Tuesday: delegate math and candidate momentum.
After a string of losses, Clinton was hoping for victories in both big states to revive her prospects.