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Clinton now closer to endgame

Her best hope is for something to occur that makes Obama appear unelectable.

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Clinton aides said Wednesday there had been no internal discussions about either quitting the race or joining an Obama ticket.

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Clinton's strategy

For now, though, Team Clinton is sticking with Plan A, trying to win the top spot for Hillary. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Clinton aides outlined a three-pronged strategy for continuing their fight: a big victory in West Virginia (May 13) and the other remaining contests, seating Florida and Michigan's delegations at the national convention in proportion to Clinton's victories in those disputed contests, and convincing a large number of undecided superdelegates that Clinton is the strongest candidate against Sen. John McCain in November.

But those remain steep challenges. Clinton spokesman Phil Singer acknowledged that even if the Michigan and Florida results counted toward the nomination, Clinton would pick up a net of 58 delegates and still be nearly 100 delegates behind Obama in the overall delegate count.

The two states had not finished allocating delegates at press time, but Obama has widened his overall lead, with 1,840.5 delegates compared with Clinton's 1,688, according to Associated Press reports Wednesday morning. To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate needs 2,025 delegates, excluding Michigan and Florida. Only 452 remain up for grabs. If Michigan and Florida delegates are included in the final total, a candidate will need 2,209 delegates to win the nomination.

Meeting about Michigan and Florida

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) stripped Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates when they violated party rules by scheduling their primaries too early. DNC chair Howard Dean has promised that the delegations will be seated at the convention, but the conflict has yet to be resolved. The issue will be front and center on May 31, when the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets.

On the conference call, Clinton aides rejected the idea that her pursuit of enough superdelegates to reverse Obama's lead in pledged delegates – those won via primaries and caucuses – amounted to a  "nullification strategy."

"That says some delegates count more than others," said Howard Wolfson, her communications director. "They are not undoing anything. They are casting their votes. All we are doing is suggesting that the process ought to play through."

Clinton aides also said a set of recent personal loans to her campaign were not a sign of fundraising trouble, but a reflection of her dedication to the campaign.

"The loans are a sign of Senator Clinton's commitment to the race, and a commitment to being able to compete with Obama on TV," said Mr. Wolfson.