MIAMI (AFP) — Invoking Democratic nightmares of the 2000 Florida presidential recount, Hillary Clinton demanded the revival of two voided primaries as she sought to halt Barack Obama's march toward the party's nomination.
The Democratic rivals canvassed the key battleground state of Florida on Wednesday, but with different races in mind.
While Obama traded blows with Republican presumptive nominee John McCain in a preview of their potential matchup in the November general election, Clinton pressed for the Florida and Michigan primaries to be reinstated.
The former first lady was in a feisty mood at a rally in Boca Raton, warning her party had deprived voters of basic rights by stripping the two states of national convention delegates over a scheduling dispute.
"You learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren't counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner," she told supporters.
"The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal-clear: if any votes aren't counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished."
Clinton's hopes of becoming the first female presidential nominee were dealt a blow Tuesday after the two candidates split the latest primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, leaving Obama just 67 delegates short of claiming the nomination.
Clinton, trailing Obama in every metric of the race, needs a solution to the Florida-Michigan imbroglio to claim victory in the popular vote and bolster her claim that she is the rightful nominee.
She won the discounted primaries, though neither candidate campaigned in Florida and Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan.
Moreover, Democratic Party rules state that the total of elected delegates in each state is the measure of victory -- not how many total votes were cast.
Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod said their campaign was "open to compromise" on the Florida-Michigan question.
"We are willing to go more than half way," he told National Public Radio. "We're willing to work to make sure that we can achieve a compromise."
Even if Michigan and Florida delegates were reinstated at a party meeting in Washington on May 31, Clinton would still trail Obama in the decisive count.
Clinton's comments evoked the plight of ex-vice president Al Gore, who many Democrats believe was deprived of the White House when the Supreme Court stopped a Florida recount, handing the presidency to George W. Bush.
The New York senator, 60, has vowed to keep fighting at least until after remaining contests in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota end the exhausting coast-to-coast marathon, by June 3.
According to independent website RealClearPolitics, Obama led by 1,959 total delegates to 1,778, with 2,026 required to clinch the nomination.
Obama, 46, eyeing a potential general election matchup with McCain in Florida, celebrated his capture of a majority of elected delegates, the latest milestone in his apparent march to the nomination.
"And so we are at the threshold of being able to obtain this nomination," he told cheering supporters at a sports arena in Tampa, a day after he won Oregon and Clinton took Kentucky.
Seeking to repair party unity, he called Clinton a "wonderful candidate."
"But it is going to be time for us very soon to start unifying this party because we cannot afford to be divided come November," he told a fundraiser in an Orlando suburb.
McCain, meanwhile, launched a new broadside on the Democratic frontrunner over foreign policy, calling him naive for offering to talk to US foes.
"I have news for Senator Obama," McCain said, in reply to Obama's claim on Tuesday that he shared with Bush a "fear" of talking to US enemies.
"I have met some very bad people before in my life," the former Vietnam War prisoner said.
"It is not fear that drives my opposition to unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, Kim Jong-Il, and Raul Castro," McCain said, referring to leaders in Iran, North Korea and Cuba.
"Rather, it is my clear understanding that such a course will fail to eliminate the threat posed by these rogue regimes."
The New York Times meanwhile reported McCain would start meeting this weekend possible vice presidential running mates, including former rival Mitt Romney, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the Indian-American governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »