Clinton: Democrats' voices will be heard in Florida
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 8:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 8:58 p.m.
SARASOTA, Fla. - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she was going to Florida to assure Democrats that "their voices are heard" and to underscore her commitment to seeing the state's delegation seated at the national convention.
Though the Democratic presidential candidates largely have heeded the national party's request that they not campaign publicly in Florida, Clinton said it's time to pay attention to voters there who are showing heavy interest in Tuesday's primary. Early voting is under way and drawing strong interest, she said.
"Hundreds of thousands of people have already voted in Florida and I want them to know I will be there to be part of what they have tried to do to make sure their voices are heard," Clinton said in Memphis, Tenn., before heading for Florida.
Clinton met with reporters as she campaigned in Tennessee, one of 22 states with primary contests on Feb. 5, and she sought to shift the focus from her lopsided loss to rival Barack Obama in the South Carolina primary on Saturday to the coming contests.
Clinton worked overtime to deflect attention from her loss, hoping to claim credit for a strong showing in Florida when little was actually at stake. No delegate will be allocated, and none of the candidates have made an effort in the state. While there has been heavy activity in early voting largely driven by state issues. An issue on the ballot would lower property taxes, and it has Democrats and Republicans campaigning hard.
In addition, the state's Democratic Party has pushed the early voting issue hard, in part to seek some attention. Faced with a need to deflect Obama's momentum, Clinton was happy to help.
She arrived in Sarasota taking care to abide by the details of the agreement, because events in Sarasota and later in Miami were not open to the public.
With a wink at the deal, Clinton carefully staged her arrival so she left her airplane with palm trees in the background for photographers. Asked if she was happy to be in Florida, she said: "How could you not be. It is absolutely glorious. It is a perfect day here in Florida."
After Florida moved its primary up to Tuesday in an attempt to play a bigger role in choosing the presidential nominees, the Democratic National Committee said it would refuse to seat the state's delegation at the national convention in late August. But it is expected that the eventual nominee will try to reverse that decision because of Florida's crucial role in the general election.
Clinton already is on record favoring that step.
"I will try to persuade my delegates to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida," said Clinton in Tennessee, arguing that she was bowing to political reality. "Democrats have to win Michigan and have to try to win Florida and I intend to do that. The people of Florida deserve to be represented in the process of picking a candidate for president of the United States."
Michigan also violated party rules by moving its primary to Jan. 15, and party leaders voted to strip the state of its 156 delegates as punishment.
The competition between Clinton and Obama grew heated heading into the South Carolina vote, leading to criticism of the role her husband, the former president, played in her campaign. Hillary Clinton dismissed the criticism.
"I think people understand that this is a very contested, vigorous election," she said. "That heightens interest. This is the most intense election process that I know of and certainly have been involved in."
She argued there's nothing wrong with drawing distinctions, and said she would continue to do so.
"I think voters deserve to make an informed decision based on differences in our record and positions," Clinton said.
With split decisions in the contests thus far — Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, Clinton won New Hampshire and Nevada — there's increased speculation that the Democratic contest will extend beyond the virtual national primary on Feb. 5. Clinton aides noted that if she won all the more than 1,600 delegates at stake that day — a virtual impossibility — she would still be short of the number needed to clinch the nomination.
"We're going to be in it for as long as it takes," she said.
Asked during an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether her husband would continue his aggressive role in her campaign, Clinton said he will continue to be with her and support her.
"My husband has such a great commitment to me and to my campaign. You know, he loves me just like, you know, husbands and wives get out there and work on each others' behalf. I certainly did that for him for many years," she said. She added that "what he is doing for me is obviously out of a sense of deep commitment to me personally but also based on his experience as president as to who he thinks would best lead our country. And I know that in my own support of him going back some years, I sometimes got a little bit carried away. I confess to that."
Obama won a majority of the black votes in South Carolina, but Clinton has made it clear that she is not giving up on them.
She spoke Saturday night at a traditionally black college in Nashville, and attended worship services and spoke Sunday at Monumental Baptist Church, a traditionally black church in Memphis. The minister, Samuel Kyles, was with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated nearly 40 years ago.
Clinton talked of her ties to King and of leading a delegation to the inauguration of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
"The march continues," Clinton said. "I believe Doctor King glimpsed that from the mountaintop he spoke about the day before he died."
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