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Following Tuesday's Democratic nominating contests in Oregon and Kentucky, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton headed for Florida, a key general election state embroiled in a dispture over its renegade primary.
With the presidential primary season almost at an end, the two remaining Democratic contenders turned their attention today to one of the two states still in political limbo.
Coming off their split of yesterday's primaries in Oregon and Kentucky, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both were in Florida today, a state that voted almost four months ago.
Clinton won January's Sunshine State primary, but those results, and those from her victory in Michigan, as well, were discounted, and their delegates to the Democratic convention stripped because the two states moved their primary dates up early, in defiance of party rules.
The Democratic Party's Rules Committee will meet late next week to decide what to do about those disenfranchised delegates. But in Boca Raton today, Clinton made it clear what she thought should happen.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: Here in Florida, more than 1.7 million people cast their votes…
… the highest primary turnout in the history of Florida, and nearly 600,000 voters in Michigan did the same. I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes.
And they should count them exactly as they were cast. Democracy demands no less.
Obama also has called for a solution to the delegate conundrum, but has said it must be fair to both sides. He made no mention of the delegate dilemma today in Tampa, instead focusing once again on John McCain and his ties to lobbyists.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Ten years ago, John McCain offered a bill that said he would ban a candidate from paying registered lobbyists, and he did this because he said that having lobbyists on your campaign was a conflict of interest. This is what he said 10 years ago.
Well, I'll tell you that John McCain then would be pretty disappointed with John McCain now…
… because he hired some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington to run his campaign. And when he was called on it, his top lobbyist actually had the nerve to say the American people won't care about this. Well, I think the American people do care about it.
The official number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination is 2,026, putting Obama less than 70 delegates shy of the magic number.
At a rally last night in Des Moines, he laid claim to what he called a "major milestone" in the Democratic nomination process, a majority of pledged delegates.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA:
And tonight, Iowa, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people…
… and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America.
But in Florida today, Clinton skipped over delegates and stressed the importance of winning the popular vote.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON:
And we believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will. We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000, when right here in Florida you learned the hard way what happens when your vote aren't counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner.
Only three primaries remain on the Democratic calendar, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, all coming the first week in June.
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