She has said she needed it. Tonight, she got it.
Sen. Hillary Clinton won the much-hyped Pennsylvania primary Tuesday, the first election in the past six weeks of this election cycle.
“Some people counted me out and said to drop out, but the American people don’t quit, and they deserve a president who doesn’t quit, either,” Clinton said after it was announced that she was the projected winner.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Clinton has a 10-point lead over Obama, 55 percent to 45 percent. Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, Obama only won seven, including Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties.
The crowd counted down at 7:59 p.m. to the statewide close of the polls at 8 p.m. In a scene reminiscent of New Year’s Eve, those supporters in attendance at the Bellevue Hotel cheered for their candidate.
“Keystone State, Hillary ’08,” the crowd chanted enthusiastically.
But the loudest cheers of the night came at 9:05 p.m., when CNN officially projected Clinton to win the long-awaited primary.
“Today, here in Pennsylvania, you’ve made your voices heard,” Clinton said on stage, joined with her husband, President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea. “And because of you, the tide is turning.”
After the polls closed, U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Joe Sestak spoke to the crowd of about 200, congratulating them on helping Clinton’s campaign.
“I can’t wait until next January,” Sestak said. “I just can’t wait to have Sen. Clinton be not just the next president of the United States of America, but also, I believe, one of the greatest commanders in chief we will ever have.”
Schwartz echoed Sestak’s response.
“As Pennsylvanians, I heard you say you wanted to be heard,” Schwartz said. “You wanted your vote counted. That’s what democracy is all about. Look how we were heard. We are going to take that message to the next nine contests.”
The senator was introduced by two of her biggest endorsers in Pennsylvania, Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell.
“Tomorrow, there’ll be all this discussion about how much and margins,” Nutter said. “All I can tell you is when I grew up in West Philadelphia, they said a win is a win, and that’s all that matters.”
The governor approached the podium with cell phone in hand as he addressed the crowd.
“Hold on, I need to take this. It’s a news station,” Rendell said. “They’ve just reported a major earthquake in Pennsylvania that’s going to shake up American politics.”
Throughout the day, horns honked in Center City from City Hall down to Locust Street, but generally not for the Clinton campaign. Obama supporters filled the median on South Broad Street as drivers showed their support through honks.
Clinton supporters gathered on the west side of City Hall, chanting and cheering to the passing cars hours before the polls closed. The senator thanked all of her supporters throughout the state for their continued enthusiasm.
“I might stumble, and I might get knocked down, but as long as you stand with me, I will always get right back up,” she said.
After the post-primary party concluded, a throng of people remained outside the Bellevue, waiting to catch one last glimpse of the Clintons. Some traveled across the country just to show their support.
“I think a win is a win,” said Dali Schroedel, a native of San Francisco. “I think she’s won all the states she needs to beat Obama. No one should try to minimize this win.”
Mali Kigasari, from Oakland, Calif., took five months off from her job to follow Clinton around the country and support her favorite candidate.
“I think she’s a great candidate,” Kigsari said. “There’s no way Sen. Obama can win.”
However, seven primary elections remain, and many superdelegates are undecided. Either candidate still has a chance of winning the nomination. But Kigsari said she fears the divide that the election cycle has created thus far.
“Whoever wins this nomination is only going to win by 51 percent,” she said. “We need to bring the party together.”
Both Democratic candidates will be campaigning heavily for the next round of primaries to be held May 6 in North Carolina and Indiana.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Clinton said. “But if you’re ready, I’m ready.”
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audio report from the scene, recorded at 10:52 p.m.