When she took the stage to speak to supporters in Indiana on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton was ready to declare victory in Indiana's Democratic primary. The networks were not so quick to call a winner, and plenty of doubt seemed to remain about who the winner would eventually be, but it didn't seem to matter to Clinton -- Barack Obama had already all but conceded, and Clinton's message was that she was taking victory and pressing on to the contests that will come over the next month.
The words of Clinton's speech said that she was confident and upbeat about her performance on Tuesday and her prospects for her future. Her demeanor, her tone and the body language of her husband standing behind her sometimes told a different story, though. Hillary Clinton sounded tired, and Bill Clinton looked it -- both seemed deflated at times.
Clinton began her speech with a little dig at her opponent -- he'd started with a similar one at her -- as she said, "Not too long ago, my opponent made a prediction. He said I would probably win Pennsylvania, he would win North Carolina, and Indiana would be the tiebreaker. 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."
And from there Clinton tried to exult more, but as she told her supporters, "For all those who aren't in the headlines, but have always written America's story, tonight is your victory right here in Indiana," she sounded fatigued, not excited.
From there, she was on to a plea for money from her supporters. It was an odd placement, having the plea so early, as it broke up the flow of her speech and got her back on an underdog's footing, but this is a tactic that has worked for her campaign before.
Much of Clinton's message for the night was familiar, as she painted herself as the race's champion of the working and middle classes, and even brought up the gas tax summer holiday proposal that has brought her so much grief from experts and the media for the past week. "I have met so many people here in Indiana and across America who feel invisible," Clinton said, adding:
You sure feel invisible when you're paying $60 or $70 to fill up your tank. You feel invisible when the money you took to the grocery store no longer meets your needs for the next week.
You feel invisible when your health insurance disappears and college is out of reach.
And you can't believe how invisible you feel when your loved one who served our country in war is ill-served back at home. But I know these stories. And I see you and I hear you. And I know how hard you're working, working for yourselves and working for your families. And I will never stop fighting for you, so that you can have a future ...
Tonight, Hoosiers have said that you do want a president who stands strong for you, a president who is ready on Day One to take charge as commander in chief and keep our families safe, a president who knows how to make this economy work for hardworking, middle-class families ...
Fundamentally, I believe that Americans need a champion in their corner, that for too long we've had a president who has stood up and spoke out for the wealthy and the well connected ... And I think standing up for working people is about the American dream and the Democratic Party. And I think standing up for the middle class is about who we are and who we can be, if we stick together.
Clinton did promise to continue campaigning for the Democratic nomination, saying, "It is on to West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon and the other states where people are eager to have their voices heard ... I'm going to work my heart out in West Virginia and Kentucky this month, and I intend to win them in November in the general election." She also made a call, as she and her campaign have in the past, for the Democratic Party to seat delegates from the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries -- that call inspired a chant of "Count the votes, count the votes" from her supporters. But, importantly, she also made something like the call for unity to which her opponent devoted so much of his speech for the night, saying:
I can assure you, as I have said on many occasions, that, no matter what happens, I will work for the nominee of the Democratic Party, because we must win in November ...
I know that Senator Obama feels the same way, because we have been on this campaign trail now for a long time.
And we know how desperately people want to see a change, and it will not be a change if the Republicans keep the White House. It will be more of the same, something that no one, no matter what political party you may be, can afford.