- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton flew into Florida late yesterday to celebrate her win in the state’s Democratic primary, even though its delegates do not count and the candidates agreed not to campaign there.

Mrs. Clinton, still smarting over a crushing loss to Sen. Barack Obama in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, stopped in Florida minutes after voting ended as she tries to regain momentum for Super Tuesday next week, when 22 states will hold Democratic presidential nominating contests.

“I am convinced that with this resounding vote, [and] with the millions of Americans who will vote next Tuesday, we will send a clear message that America is back,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters at a rally yesterday evening in Davie in South Florida. “I am so grateful to the countless Floridians who on their own organized, worked hard, talked to your friends and your neighbors — you made a very big difference.”

Mrs. Clinton didn’t publicly campaign in Florida for the primary but attended some closed fundraisers in the state in recent years.

As the nation’s fourth most populated state, Florida normally holds a key primary contest. But the national Democratic Party decided not to seat Florida and Michigan delegates at this summer’s national convention after the states moved their primaries ahead of Feb. 5.

Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s chief Democratic rival, has downplayed the importance of the Florida primary. His campaign manager, David Plouffe, said it is “not our decision” whether delegates in Florida or Michigan are seated.

“If one candidate develops a huge lead, I’m sure the nominee and the DNC would discuss “the possibility of seating the states,” he said. But at this point, “there are no delegates.”

Mrs. Clinton has lobbied hard in recent days for the national party to reinstate Florida’s 210 delegate.

Clinton campaign officials said they expect the spat with the national party to be resolved in Mrs. Clinton’s favor.

“I can’t envision circumstances which at the end of the day these delegates are not seated,” said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.

He added that “we’re not here to get into an argument with the [Democratic National Committee].”

Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who called Florida one of the country’s most important swing states, said, “Floridians want their voices heard.”

Mr. Plouffe suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s call for seating the delegates is a “very political maneuver,” which he called “too cute by half.”

Mrs. Clinton of New York, Mr. Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina agreed not to campaign in Florida.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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