January 26, 2008 / 12:44 AM / 12 years ago

Clinton roils vote dispute in presidential race

ROCK HILL, South Carolina (Reuters) - Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an about-face, said on Friday she wants the Democratic Party delegates in two states that were barred by the national party to be reinstated and counted in the race to determine the party’s U.S. presidential nominee.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Rock Hill, South Carolina, January 25, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Keane

In those states, Michigan and Florida, Clinton could stake claim to nearly all the delegates to the nominating convention in question — more than 350.

She was the only candidate on the Democratic ballot in Michigan and holds a strong lead in Florida, which holds its contest on Tuesday.

The national party eliminated the delegates from Michigan and Florida because the states broke party rules by holding primary voting contests before February 5. But just four days before Florida’s primary, Clinton said she wants the delegates reinstated.

“I know other campaigns have tried to downplay the significance of these two states,” Clinton told reporters. “I think that is not a good strategy for Democrats or any of us who cares about the outcome of this election.”

To become the Democratic nominee in the November election, a candidate must collect a majority of more than 2,000 delegates by competing in state contests around the nation.

Because Michigan and Florida violated the rules, all the major Democratic candidates pledged not to campaign there before their primaries.

Clinton said she did not think she was violating that agreement.

“I think it’s important we send a message to the people of Michigan and Florida that Democrats care about their lives and their futures, and I will certainly do everything I can to be a good president for them,” she said.

In Michigan, Clinton won the primary after the other major candidates pulled their names from the ballot. Polls show she holds a strong lead in Florida, where all the candidates are on the ballot.

A spokesman for her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama, accused Clinton of changing course.

“Senator Clinton’s own campaign has repeatedly said that this is a contest for delegates, and Florida is a contest that offers zero,” campaign manager David Plouffe said in a statement.

“Whether it is Barack Obama’s record, her position on Social Security, or even the meaning of the Florida primary, it seems like Hillary Clinton will do or say anything to win an election,” he said.

The Democratic and Republican parties penalized the early voting states in an attempt to gain control over an increasingly chaotic primary calendar, in which states were vying to hold their contests earlier and earlier.

The Democrats allowed early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

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