Clinton, McCain win Florida


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 4:33 p.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Florida Democratic primary Tuesday night, an event that drew no campaigning by any of her presidential rivals and awarded no delegates to the winner.

Clinton promptly declared it a welcome victory. Barack Obama’s camp dismissed it as meaningless.

The New York senator, fresh off her lopsided loss to Barack Obama in last weekend’s South Carolina primary, arranged a rally in the state as the polls were closing, an evident attempt to gain campaign momentum.

She and Obama collide next week in a coast-to-coast competition for delegates across 22 states.

Last year, the national party stripped Florida of its delegates as punishment for moving its primary ahead of Feb. 5 and the candidates pledged to bypass the state. At stake Tuesday were 185 delegates.

Still, Clinton winked at that pledge, holding two closed fundraisers in recent days and scheduling a rally with supporters after the polls closed in Florida.

‘‘I could not come here in person to ask you for your votes, but I am here to thank you for your votes today,’’ she said. ‘‘This has been a record turnout because Floridians wanted their voices to be heard. I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure not only are Florida’s Democratic delegates seated but Florida is in the winning column for the Democrats in 2008.’’

It is expected that the eventual nominee will try to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan, reversing the Democratic National Committee’s punishment.

Sen. John McCain won a breakthrough triumph in Florida, seizing the upper hand in the GOP race ahead of next week’s coast-to-coast contests and lining up a quick endorsement from soon-to-be dropout Rudy Giuliani.

‘‘It shows one thing: I’m the conservative leader who can unite the party,’’ McCain told The Associated Press after easing past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his first-ever triumph in a primary open only to Republicans.

The victory was worth 57 Republican National Convention delegates for McCain, a winner-take-all haul that catapulted him ahead of Romney in that category.

Romney, who has spent millions of dollars of his personal fortune to run for the White House, vowed to stay in the race.

Giuliani, the former New York mayor, ran third. Several officials familiar with events said he intended to endorse McCain on Wednesday in California.

Alachua County Republicans backed McCain by a 6 percent margin, while local Democrats bucked the statewide trend and chose Sen. Barack Obama over his chief Democratic rival, Clinton.

Obama, an Illinois senator, beat Clinton handily in Alachua County. He took 46 percent of the vote, compared to the New York senator’s 35 percent. Trailing both candidates was ex-North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who had 16 percent of the local vote.

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