Byline: STEVEN THOMMA
WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton won a hard-fought Pennsylvania primary Tuesday, beating rival Barack Obama in a scrappy victory that she hopes will keep her underdog campaign alive to fight another day.
The New York senator was carried to victory by whites, women, the working class and the elderly - the third time she's been rescued from the brink of political death after must-win victories in New Hampshire in January and Ohio in March.
Her victory came despite being outspent by an estimated 3-to-1 by the much better-financed Obama - and despite a surge of voters registering as Democrats that broke for Obama. The margin of her victory wasn't known as of 9 p.m., but several TV networks and the Associated Press declared her the winner based on exit polls and early return trends.
Clinton was desperate for a win, especially a big win, to jump-start her campaign heading into the final stretch of primaries. She's looking for a series of victories to convince pivotal superdelegates that she's the strongest Democrat and that Obama is a flawed candidate who can't win big states against the Republicans this fall because he couldn't beat her in them in the spring.
"I think maybe the question ought to be: Why can't he close the deal? With his extraordinary financial advantage, why can't he win a state like this one, if that's the way it turns out?" Clinton said in Conshohocken, a Philadelphia suburb, before the polls closed Tuesday.
Even before the polls closed, Obama appeared ready to concede the state - but not the nomination.
"Let me cut to the chase," Obama said in Philadelphia. "A win is 50 plus one. So if Sen. Clinton gets over 50 percent, she's won the state. I don't try to pretend I enjoy getting 45 percent and that's a moral victory; we've lost the state.
"What I do believe is we're coming to the end of this process, and if you look, we've won twice as many states. We've won the popular vote by a fairly substantial margin. We've got a very big lead in pledged delegates, and we've competed in every state, win or lose."
Exit polls showed that Clinton won among whites, women, those with incomes below $50,000 and no college education, those older than 65, Roman Catholics and Jews, and gun owners.
Among whites 60 and older - a solid third of the vote - she won by nearly 2-1.
More than one in 10 white voters said the race of the candidate was important to their decision, and they went for Clinton by a 3-1 margin.
Obama won among African-Americans, men, those under the age of 44 and those with incomes above $200,000.
He won Philadelphia and its suburbs; she won everywhere else.
Turnout was heavy in a state seeing its first contested Democratic primary since 1976. …