Clinton, Obama campaigns fight over Florida's significance

In dueling e-mail releases, both jockey for position in the wake of Florida's Democratic primary.


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Alex Koppelman
January 30, 2008 9:10AM (UTC)

The question of what, exactly, Florida's Democratic primary means for the race generally clearly won't get an easy answer sometime soon. Florida's votes technically don't count for the moment, as the Democratic Party punished the state for moving its primary up before the date the parties had set for it. The candidates also signed a pledge promising not to campaign in the state.

But, needing a victory -- if only for P.R. purposes -- in the aftermath of Barack Obama's landslide win in South Carolina this past weekend, Hillary Clinton's campaign has been playing up Florida's importance. It has also been making a plea for the delegates from the state, as well as the similarly punished Michigan, to be seated at the Democratic convention.

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Tonight, representatives of both campaigns have been strenuously pushing their message out to the media. What follows are two of the e-mails sent by the campaigns to reporters. The first is a memo authored by Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn; the second is an e-mail from Obama press secretary Bill Burton.

The Penn memo: "Hillary Clinton won a significant victory today in the Florida primary with biggest turnout in Florida Democratic primary history. She will end up with more votes than John McCain, the winner of the Republican primary. And Floridians cast more votes than were cast in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, and New Hampshire combined.

"A large, broad, and diverse group of voters came out and voted for Hillary in Florida. She won women, men, and just about every age category. She won nearly 6 in 10 Latinos and nearly 3 in 10 African American voters.

"The vote turned out to be far more than symbolic. Well over 1.5 million Democrats cast their ballots, more than twice the number of voters who came out to vote in the 2004 primary.

"Most of the voters in Florida fully expect that their votes will not be wasted again -- they too have a voice at the convention, and Hillary has asked her delegates to support their being seated.

"This result comes after Senator Obama ran TV commercials that reached Florida homes and after the enormous publicity he received for South Carolina and for the Ted Kennedy endorsement. The exit polls show widespread recognition of the endorsement -- but even so among those who decided on Election Day, a plurality of those chose Hillary.

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"But any momentum seemed to run out today -- among those who decided on Election Day, a plurality of those chose Hillary."

The Burton statement: "When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she said that states like Michigan and Florida that won't award delegates, 'don't count for anything.' Now that Senator Clinton has lost badly in South Carolina, she's trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred. Senator Clinton's own campaign has repeatedly said that this is a 'contest for delegates', and tonight, Florida awarded zero. Senator Obama is disappointed that Florida will have no role in selecting delegates for the Democratic nominee, but looks forward to competing and winning in Florida during the general election."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room

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