Former president Bill Clinton swept through deep east Texas in a bid to help his wife get her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination back on track.
He told supporters Hillary Clinton, who wants to be the first female president, would beat Barack Obama, who aims to be America’s first black president, if she won the Texas and Ohio primary elections on March 4.
The 268,820 square mile Lone Star state, with its population of 23.5 million, is the second biggest state in America and is the most delegate-rich primary election left in the race.
A total of 228 delegates will be on offer and the former president covered the eastern side of the state – from Texarkana in the north, through Longview, Tyler, and Nagadoches and on to Lufkin – in a 14-hour plus day on the campaign trail.
It is an area largely covered by the Piney Woods, criss-crossed with major highways.
As he gave his last stump speech of the day at the Pitser Garrison Civic Centre in Lufkin, Mr Clinton said his wife was the best candidate to offer “solutions for America” on the key issues, including the economy, universal healthcare and the Iraq war.
He told a crowd of around 500 people, many of whom had waited for several hours, some in the rain: “The only way for us to make a new beginning is turn over a new leaf.
“If you believe that, you can make one decision. That argument already eliminates some of the candidates in this election.”
He went on: “You’ve got to decide whether you’re ready for America to seize this moment, and stop making excuses, and provide affordable healthcare in a way that makes this a more just country and makes this a more economically competitive country.
“If you are, Hillary’s your choice for president and you ought to help her get elected.”
He said only his wife offered a universal health care system for the nation, and Mr Obama’s plan would cost more and still leave some people without insurance.
He told Texans: “She’s the best candidate you will ever have the chance to vote for, and I hope Texas will bring her in.”
One of the biggest cheers of the night came when his speech turned to education and the problems of teaching children to pass a test chosen by the state.
“We should try to raise standards, but we ought to do it in a way that makes sense,” he said.
The former president also touched on the war in Iraq and said indecision by the Iraqi government was forcing the US to keep its combat troops there.
“If they think we are going to stay there forever and a day, they have no incentive to fix them,” he said.
“If we stay there, we are not doing them any favours.”
He went on: “Hillary’s position is we have to bring our soldiers home as quickly and safely as we can, without making it worse.”
He also said more money needed to be spent caring for America’s veterans.
But the crowd had dwindled to almost half its original size as Mr Clinton wrapped his speech up around an hour-and-a-half late at 11pm.
To entertain the crowd while waiting for him to arrive, campaign staffers played several songs including KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See”, “Ready to Run” by The Dixie Chicks and “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees.
As he left, he was swamped by supporters and, despite the late hour, spent time shaking hands and signing autographs as he urged Texans to vote for the candidate “with the solutions”.
Earlier in the day, he told voters in Texarkana: “If she wins in Texas and Ohio, she will win the nomination.”
Almost a third of the state’s population is of Hispanic origin, a group that skewed heavily towards the former First Lady in Nevada and California.
Many Latinos have also said they owe loyalty to the Clinton name and want a president on the inside track who can deliver for them – rather than an ethnic minority outsider.
Obama campaign aides admit the 60-year-old New York senator starts with significant advantages but insist the contest in Texas is far from over.
An average of all the recent polls, taken by independent website Realclearpolitics.com, show Mrs Clinton with a 10-point lead over Mr Obama.
But the 46-year-old is hoping to make it a tight race as he comes off the back of eight wins since Super Tuesday. Two more contests, in Wisconsin and Hawaii, take place this week and the young Illinois senator is expected to do well in both.
As Mr Clinton campaigned on his wife’s behalf, she launched a new TV advert which ran across the state, saying she offered a voice for the nation’s veterans.
“She’ll never stop fighting for those who fight for us and give voice to those who have none,” the voiceover said.
Mrs Clinton was focusing her attention on Ohio, another large state with 161 delegates on offer, which goes to the polls on the same day as Texas.