Clinton Wins Easily in Puerto Rico

She Holds Out Hope As Obama Nears Delegate Majority

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) clinches enough pledged delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, as polls closed in the last state primary elections in South Dakota and Montana, June 3, 2008.
By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 2, 2008

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, June 1 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) won the Puerto Rico primary comfortably on Sunday, claiming perhaps her last triumph in the race for a Democratic presidential nomination that increasingly appears to be out of her reach.

In a telephone interview with The Washington Post after her victory by a 2 to 1 ratio over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), Clinton stressed that she will press forward through the final contests of the primary season on Tuesday, brushed aside the idea that she was searching for an exit strategy, and said she will continue to weigh both her immediate- and longer-term options in the race.

Asked whether she will challenge a Democratic National Committee ruling on Saturday awarding Obama some disputed Michigan delegates even though his name did not appear on the state's ballot, Clinton said she had not yet decided. In her victory speech Sunday afternoon, Clinton again claimed triumph in the overall popular vote in the primaries and held out hope that she would still see a reversal of fortune.

"I have four words for you: Te quiero Puerto Rico" ("I love you, Puerto Rico"), Clinton said shortly after the polls closed at a rally where hundreds of supporters packed into a seaside resort to catch a glimpse of the candidate.

The setting underscored the distance Clinton had traveled since her defeat in Iowa five months earlier: falling from front-runner to long shot, spending tens of millions to campaign in dozens of states and winding up in a Spanish-speaking territory that cannot vote in the general election.

Clinton seemed to relish campaigning on the island over the weekend, watching from a distance as the DNC dealt her campaign a potentially decisive setback in its decision to seat renegade delegates from Michigan and Florida.

But Obama, campaigning in South Dakota, spoke as if the DNC ruling were the final word and he were poised to become the nominee -- a position he is preparing to take more fully later this week as he approaches the new delegate threshold of 2,118. Obama said he had called Clinton to congratulate her on the Puerto Rico victory, describing her as someone who would play a prominent role in helping him win the general election against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"She is going to be a great asset when we go into November to make sure we defeat the Republicans," Obama told a crowd at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D.

Clinton won a minimum of 38 delegates in the Puerto Rico vote, compared with at least 17 for Obama. A count late Sunday by the Associated Press gave Obama an overall total of 2,071 delegates to Clinton's 1,915 1/2 , which would leave Obama roughly 47 delegates shy of being able to claim a majority.

In the phone interview, Clinton said she had "no idea" what her timetable will be for deciding whether to appeal the DNC ruling on Michigan.

"I don't know yet -- we'll consider that. And I'll talk to my supporters to try to determine that in the future," Clinton said. "We reserve the right to do it. But I haven't made a decision yet."

During the interview, she spoke most extensively about the case she intends to make with renewed vigor over the next few days: that superdelegates should pay extra attention now to her contention that she is winning the popular vote and to the fact that she has performed so well in recent contests.

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