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Clinton seeks boost in Puerto Rico

world Updated: May 26, 2008 13:47 IST

Reuters
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Struggling presidential contender Hillary Clinton campaigned in Puerto Rico on Sunday as she prepared for a pivotal ruling and sought to end a firestorm ignited by her reference to the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, was to join her on Monday for a third straight day of campaigning on the Caribbean island, where she has been favored to win.

But before the US territory's Democratic presidential primary Sunday, Clinton faces a major showdown -- possibly the final one -- when Democratic Party officials meet to decide what to do with delegates from Florida and Michigan.

A decision on Saturday in her favor by the Democratic rules committee is key to her uphill fight with Barack Obama to win the Democratic nomination at the party convention this summer and face Republican John McCain in the November election.

The two states, which were stripped of their convention delegates for violating party primary rules, are believed to be making plans to allow at least some delegates to be counted.

Obama, the Illinois senator, has a nearly insurmountable lead in the popular vote and pledged delegates.

Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe was asked if Clinton would accept a decision she did not particularly like.

"I am not saying that today," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "I'm saying let them make their decision and then we will determine."

At a series of campaign events across Puerto Rico, Clinton was greeted by crowds of several hundred people, chanting, "Hillary, Hillary." One man held a sign reading, "Quit."

"We admire you as a woman of determination and intelligence," Perza Rodriguez, mayor of the town of Caborojo, told the former first lady at a beachfront rally.

Puerto Ricans can help pick the Democratic nominee but do not have the right to vote in November's general election.

Even as she tried to get the political discussion back to topics like the economy, her comments citing Robert Kennedy's assassination after winning the June 1968 California presidential primary were still the focus of political talk.

Context of remarks

Writing in the New York Daily News, Clinton again explained she had mentioned the assassination in the historical context of a campaign that continued well into June. The New York senator said her remarks were taken out of context.

"I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for -- and everything I am fighting for in this election," she wrote.

Others saw the mere mention of assassination as a reminder of the role such killings have played in U.S. politics and that Obama, who would be the first black US president, has had Secret Service protection for more than year.

The Obama camp said it wanted to move on. "As far as we're concerned, this issue is done," David Axelrod, chief strategist for the Illinois senator, said on ABC's "This Week."

But some Clinton supporters pointed out that the Obama campaign had jumped to respond on Friday after she had made the remarks to an editorial board in South Dakota.

McAuliffe said their quick response inflamed the issue and then the "hyped-up press" took her comments out of context.
Clinton's supporters noted that Robert Kennedy's son understood what she meant and her words were not about Obama.

"They had nothing to do with Senator Obama," Clinton campaign adviser Howard Wolfson said on CBS. "And so there would be no reason for her to apologize to Senator Obama."

The last Democratic nominating contests will be held on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, where Obama is favored.
Obama delivered the commencement address at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, filling in for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, brother of slain US President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

McCain hosted a small group at his Sedona, Arizona, ranch that included three possible Republican vice presidential running mates -- former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.