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Clinton's road to nomination gets steeper

With revote plans nixed in Florida and Michigan, pressure is on for an acceptable solution.

By Ariel SabarStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 24, 2008

Revote campaign: Clinton supporters in Detroit last week were pushing for a new state primary.

Rebecca cook/reuters



Hillary Rodham Clinton's path to the Democratic nomination has steepened, with Florida and Michigan giving up last week on new primaries and the Democratic Party refusing to count delegates from those states without new contests.

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The party is now under intense pressure to forge a solution that backers of both Senator Clinton and Barack Obama see as fair. "The real danger is a 1968 convention for the Democrats, where people felt cheated," says Ronald Rapoport, a political scientist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., alluding to one of recent history's most divisive and damaging conventions.

Clinton's aides say she could make a credible case for the nomination even without a majority of pledged delegates and without revotes in Florida and Michigan. She would need a substantial victory in Pennsylvania on April 22 and enough votes in the 10 remaining contests to overtake Senator Obama in the popular vote, a tall order.

Mark Penn, her chief strategist, says the campaign will look beyond hard numbers in making its case to the some 300 superdelegates, or party leaders, who remain uncommitted. "It's not a question of a cut and dried calculation at this point," he told reporters on a conference call Friday. The campaign hopes superdelegates will also consider "who they believe can win the general election" and who is better "for the good of the country and the good of the party."

Despite heavy lobbying by Clinton and her supporters, Michigan lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a revote before the start of a two-week recess Thursday. Florida abandoned its push for a do-over Monday.

The efforts in both states bogged down in a quagmire of legal, financial, and logistical questions, as well as bitter disagreements between the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

The Democratic Party stripped Michigan and Florida of delegates to the national convention for holding primaries in January, earlier than party rules allow. Both candidates honored the rules by not campaigning in those states, and Obama took an extra step of removing his name from the Michigan ballot. Voters went to the polls anyway, and Clinton won.

With Obama's nearly insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, a revote in Florida and Michigan – or a recognition of the January results – was viewed as Clinton's best chance to narrow the gap and persuade superdelegates of a popular mandate for her candidacy.

In Detroit last week, Clinton said it was "wrong and frankly un-American" to deny Florida and Michigan a voice in the nomination.

Clinton aides rejected an Obama proposal to evenly split Michigan's 128 pledged delegates. Her campaign said it would consider a mail-in contest, but Obama aides have raised concerns about ballot security.