With no breakout winner in Tuesday's Democratic nominating contests, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on Wednesday began fortifying...

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With no breakout winner in Tuesday’s Democratic nominating contests, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on Wednesday began fortifying for a drawn-out nomination fight, with Clinton disclosing that she had lent her campaign $5 million while Obama raised $3 million online in a single day and rejected calls for more debates.

Both camps, meanwhile, claimed a lead based on their analyses of Tuesday’s vote.

Clinton had the overall lead of delegates and so-called superdelegates — Democrats who are governors, senators and party leaders, according to most media calculations.

The narrow margin in delegates, and the growing likelihood that it will remain close, stirred concern Wednesday from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who said Tuesday night that Obama and Clinton should avoid taking the nominating fight all the way to the party convention in August.

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“I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April,” Dean said Wednesday on the NY1 cable-news channel, “but if we don’t, then we’re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement. Because I don’t think we can afford to have a brokered convention; that would not be good news for either party.”

An adviser to Dean said Wednesday that the chairman had not discussed the idea with either candidate. “He was essentially laying down a marker that if need be, he is prepared to step in and try to help resolve the situation,” the adviser said.

Obama and Clinton spent Wednesday meeting with their advisers to calibrate for the next stage, and also held dueling news conferences where they sought to project optimism and momentum. After 28 state primaries and caucuses from Jan. 3 to Tuesday, the Democratic calendar now airs out a bit, with contests in Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and Washington state this weekend; Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday; and Wisconsin on Feb. 19.

The two candidates planned to campaign in Washington, Maine and Virginia in the coming days; Obama was traveling to Louisiana on Wednesday night, and Clinton advisers said they expected Clinton to campaign there, too.

Clinton advisers sounded especially grim Wednesday about the upcoming contests, noting Obama’s advantage with black voters in Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia and with liberals and young voters in Washington state and Wisconsin. They already were looking ahead and budgeting for March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas, when 370 delegates will be at stake.

“Clearly, the number of delegates to be harvested from big states like New York and Massachusetts and New Jersey and California, Texas and Ohio, you know, make them particularly attractive, because there’s a lot of return on your investment,” Clinton said Wednesday at a news conference in Virginia.

Afterward, one Clinton adviser explained the focus on March 4 this way: “There’s a chance we may not win a single primary or caucus [the rest of] February, so we’re banking on Ohio and Texas.”

At his news conference in Chicago, Obama tamped down suggestions that he was romping to the nomination, saying Clinton held the advantages in a protracted fight, including her high profile and her edge with superdelegates.

“I think the Clinton camp’s basic attitude was that the whole calendar was set up to deliver the knockout blow on Feb. 5,” Obama said. “We are in a fierce competition, and we’ve got many more rounds to fight.”

Obama raised $3 million Wednesday in online contributions, according to fundraisers and campaign officials, one of the largest sums of the campaign. The Obama camp raised $27 million online in January alone.

Facing this juggernaut, Clinton disclosed the $5 million loan, made from her personal funds in late January. She also asked supporters Wednesday to donate $3 million over three days — which would roughly double the recent rate of giving to her campaign — as a way to show momentum against Obama.

In a sign that her campaign was short on money, advisers said some staff members were forgoing pay in February, including the campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, a move first reported by the Time magazine blog The Page.

Clinton advisers — who said Clinton was willing to contribute more money if necessary — cited several factors for the loan: the high expenses in the coming weeks, especially in Ohio and Texas, and a desire not to be outspent by Obama on television. The Clinton campaign will have advertisements starting today in Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and Washington. The Obama camp, meanwhile, is advertising in all of the upcoming states and just went on the air in Wisconsin.

Some Clinton advisers also acknowledged fatigue among her donors, who have been ongoing targets of fundraising solicitation since early 2006 when her Senate re-election race began.

Clinton, at her news conference, said she also was sending a signal that she believed “very strongly” in her candidacy and was willing to put her wealth on the line.

“My opponent was able to raise more money, and we intended to be competitive,” she said. “I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment.”

The Clintons have made a fortune since President Clinton left office in 2001, mostly from book deals and his speeches, and are estimated to be worth from $10 million to $50 million. The recent end of Bill Clinton’s investment partnership with the billionaire Ron Burkle is expected to yield many millions more.

At his news conference, Obama also rejected calls by Clinton advisers and some Democrats for more televised debates; the Clinton camp had proposed one debate a week through March 4.

“I don’t think anybody is clamoring for more debates,” Obama said. “We’ve had 18 debates so far.”

Obama added that he would agree to at least one debate, but noted, “It’s very important for me to spend time with voters.”

Obama won 13 states to Clinton’s eight Tuesday (New Mexico was still undecided late Wednesday), with both winning some important states. He narrowly carried Missouri, a bellwether in presidential general elections, as well as Georgia, Minnesota and Connecticut — in Clinton’s backyard. She won the delegate prize of the night, California, as well as Arizona, New Jersey and Massachusetts — a state where Obama had strong support from the Democratic leadership, most notably from Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Going forward, both campaigns acknowledged the fight was even more intense for pledged delegates — those won in a state primary or caucus — and superdelegates, who can pick for themselves and sometimes change their minds over time.

Beyond the superdelegates, Clinton advisers said they also were keenly aware that they would benefit if delegates from Michigan and Florida were counted at the Democratic convention in August. Clinton won both, but the states were stripped of their delegates after they unilaterally moved up their primary dates to January. Obama even removed his name from the ballot in Michigan.

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