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By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published January 26, 2008
Trying to ramp up the importance of Florida's Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton on Friday called for her Democratic rivals to join her in helping get Florida delegates seated for the national convention.
They didn't bite.
"I hear all the time from people in Florida and Michigan that they want their voices heard in selecting the Democratic nominee," the New York senator said in a statement. "I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan."
The Democratic National Committee stripped all the delegates from Michigan and Florida as punishment for scheduling primaries earlier than allowed by national party rules. Winning the nomination requires winning delegates, so technically that makes Florida's Democratic primary meaningless.
But with Clinton comfortably leading in Florida polls, it's in her interest to stress the importance of Florida's Democratic primary and in Sen. Barack Obama's to downplay it. The Obama campaign has repeatedly dismissed the Florida Democratic vote as irrelevant to the nominating contest, which doesn't sit well with some top Florida Democrats.
On Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson, who some Democrats expect to endorse Clinton Tuesday, praised her statement, called on other Democrats to follow her lead, and declared in a statement, "All the talk about Florida's Democratic Primary being meaningless is absurd."
Obama brushed off Clinton's effort, and John Edwards did not even respond.
"Now that Sen. Clinton's worried about losing the first Southern primary, she's using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred," said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
Many observers expect the eventual nominee will push to reinstate the delegates at the convention.
Plouffe said Obama will campaign vigorously to win Florida and Michigan in November and, "No one is more disappointed that Florida Democrats will have no role in selecting delegates for the nomination of the party's standard bearer than Sen. Obama."
The Democratic candidates also signed a pledge to Democratic leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina not to campaign in Florida. Clinton is sticking to that pledge, though she will be in South Florida and Sarasota on Sunday raising money at private receptions. Fundraising is allowed under that pledge.
While Obama is brushing off Florida's primary, his supporters are still trying to drum up votes. St. Petersburg resident Michael Tollar, a Clinton supporter, said an Obama supporter knocked on his door recently, gave him an Obama flier and urged him to support Obama.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727893-8241.
[Last modified January 25, 2008, 23:56:28]