Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Clinton presses case to count Florida, Michigan

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA

A day after Senator Barack Obama gathered a majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defiantly sent out new signals on Wednesday that she might take her fight for the nomination all the way to the party’s convention in August.

She stumped across South Florida, scene of the 2000 election debacle, pressing her case for including delegates from Florida and Michigan in the final delegate tally. On the trail and in interviews, she raised a new battle cry of determination, likening her struggle for these delegates to the nation’s historic struggles to free the slaves and grant women the right to vote.

But behind the scenes, the campaigns were working with the Democratic National Committee to resolve the dispute over the delegates before May 31, when the party’s rules committee is to decide the matter. Clinton has said she wants all delegates counted and apportioned based on the popular vote of the two candidates in both states, although Obama did not even appear on the ballot in Michigan.

Obama has said he wants the delegates seated but has not said how or in what proportion. David Axelrod, his chief strategist, said in an interview on Wednesday that the campaign was willing to go beyond halfway in the apportionment.

“If that means we have to make some sacrifices, we are open to do so, within reason,” Axelrod said. “Our sense is the folks in Florida and Michigan want to resolve this. They’re not looking to prolong this.”

The outcome on the Florida and Michigan delegates may only be symbolic anyway. Winning extra delegates, even under her rosiest scenario, would not help Clinton catch Obama’s lead on that score.

But both need superdelegates to get over the finish line. And winning additional delegates from Florida and Michigan might be Clinton’s last glimmer of hope.

Both states jumped ahead in the primary calendar in January in violation of party rules. As punishment, the party stripped them of their delegates.

Geoff Garin, Clinton’s pollster, told MSNBC that she could campaign beyond the primaries because “there are enough uncommitted delegates left for either candidate to earn a majority.”

Obama crossed the threshold of amassing a majority of pledged delegates on Tuesday with his win in Oregon, but he needs the backing of more superdelegates to claim the nomination.

Clinton has signaled that she intends to stay in the race at least through the final primaries on June 3 in South Dakota and Montana.

Obama, visiting Florida for the first time in eight months, ignored Clinton’s arguments about the delegates in a deliberate attempt, his aides said, not to legitimize her point of view.

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