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Decision on delegates a blow for Clinton

Latest update : 2008-06-01

Hillary Clinton was positioned to win the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday, but may not recover from the Democratic Party officials' decision to restore Florida and Michigan's delegations, but only with halved voting rights.

The Democratic Party has restored the states of Michigan and Florida to its presidential convention with only half of their voting power, dealing a severe blow to Hillary Clinton ahead of Sunday's primary in Puerto Rico.
   
The decision took Barack Obama, 46, two giant strides closer to making history as the first black presidential nominee.
   
But on a day of drama Saturday, Obama also took a heavy political hit, announcing he would quit his Chicago church, which has seen preachers fire off a string of racial rhetoric which rocked his campaign.
   
The Florida and Michigan compromise saw delegates apportioned to both candidates and scuppered Clinton's hopes of making a significant dent in her rival's formidable delegate lead.
   
The decision raised the finish line for the Democratic nominating contest to 2,118 delegates, with Clinton gaining a net 24 delegates from Saturday's two-state compromise.
   
That means that on the eve of the Puerto Rico vote, Obama was within 66 delegates of the target. Two more primaries in Montana and South Dakota will be held on Tuesday.
   
A total of 86 pledged delegates are on offer in the territory of Puerto Rico and the two states. There are nearly 200 "super-delegates" or top party officials, also yet to declare their allegiance.
   
Saturday's meeting of the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws panel was called to rule on the fates of Florida and Michigan, which broke party rules by holding their primary votes in January.
   
Clinton won both unofficial contests, though neither candidate campaigned in Florida, and Obama was not on the ballot on Michigan.
   
Top Clinton aide Harold Ickes complained the committee hijacked delegates from Clinton in Michigan, and said the campaign may challenge the state ruling.
   
"Mrs Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee," Ickes said.
   
The Clinton camp maintained Obama should get no delegates as he withdrew his name, to be replaced by an "uncommitted" category.
   
Clinton supporters reacted with fury to the compromise, after the acrimonious 10-hour meeting in a ballroom in a top Washington hotel.
   
One woman loudly told committee members to "shut up" -- another screamed "you stole my vote."
   
Some Clinton backers chanted "McCain, McCain," saying they would vote for the Republican nominee, and screamed "Denver, Denver," to demand a convention challenge in August.
   
The committee voted 19 to 8 to restore Michigan, after earlier voting 27-0 to reinstate Florida.
   
Clinton will get 69 delegates in Michigan, who will each only have half a vote in nominating the party's presidential nominee.
   
Obama will get 59 delegates, who will also have half a vote under the plan.
   
In Florida, Clinton will get 52.5 delegates to Obama's 33.5 and each delegate will only get half a convention vote.
   
Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said he was "extremely gratified" at the decision.
   
The Illinois senator himself said in South Dakota that he believed in the patriotism of Senator Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and their loyalty to the Democratic cause.
   
"They love the Democratic Party. I think they deeply believe that Democrats need to win in November," Obama said. "And so I trust that they're going to do the right thing."
   
Top party leaders had worried that a decision to deprive Michigan and Florida of representation at the convention would hurt the party's chances of beating Republican John McCain in two crucial general election battlegrounds.
   
Obama announced his decision to leave his church in a press conference in South Dakota, almost a week after guest preacher Father Michael Pfleger launched racially-tinged rhetoric at Clinton.
   
Trinity's former pastor was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who sent the campaign into turmoil when videos emerged of a string of vehement and race-based sermons emerged earlier this year.
   
"Michelle and I told Reverend Otis Moss that we were withdrawing as members of Trinity," Obama told a gathering in South Dakota.
   
"This is not a decision I come to lightly, and frankly it is one I make with some sadness," noting that he had concluded "it was going to be very difficult to continue our membership there so long as I was running for president.

Date created : 2008-06-01

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