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Clinton Wins Big in Puerto Rico

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) claps to the music of Willie Colon during a rally through Bayamon May 31, 2008. (Reuters)

Updated 3:42 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Puerto Rico primary comfortably on Sunday claiming perhaps her last triumph in a nominating race that appears to have slipped her grasp.

Clinton was expected to speak at an oceanfront resort here several hours after the polls closed at 3 p.m. The setting underscored the great 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 touting a win in a Spanish-speaking U.S. territory that cannot vote in the general election.

Clinton seemed to relish campaigning on the island over the weekend, conducting a local interview on Sunday and watching from a distance as the Democratic National Committee dealt her campaign a setback in its decision not to seat all delegates from Michigan and Florida with full votes. She said little initially about the ruling, which her campaign aides argued unfairly awarded delegates to
Sen. Barack Obama.

With the world watching to see whether Clinton would challenge the DNC ruling and thereby extend the contest for weeks to come, her advisers gave clues that she is not quite ready to give up.

Clinton launched a new ad, two days before the final votes are cast in South Dakota and Montana, called "17 million." The ad features her claim that she has won "more votes than anyone in the history of the Democratic primaries."

"Some say there isn't a single reason for Hillary to be the Democratic nominee," the narrator of the 30-second ad said. "They're right. There are over 17 million of them."

The claim of 17 million votes is contested: Clinton only surpasses Obama in the popular vote if none of the "uncommitted" ballots cast in Michigan count toward his total, while all of her votes in Michigan are counted. That is a problematic claim for Clinton to make, especially after her adviser, Harold Ickes, acknowledged at the DNC meeting on Saturday that the Michigan contest was flawed.

But there were also hints on Sunday that Clinton is simply seeing the race to the end, which will come on Tuesday after the polling booths close in South Dakota and Montana. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Ickes struck a less combative tone than he had at the DNC meeting the night before, saying campaign advisers "haven't decided yet" whether to pursue an appeal and that he had not discussed it at length with Clinton yet. "Obviously this will be a big decision," Ickes told host Tim Russert. "But her rights are reserved."

Clinton is scheduled to fly from Puerto Rico to South Dakota on Sunday night for stops in Rapid City, Yankton and Sioux Falls on Monday. Polls show her with disadvantages in both South Dakota and Montana; she is expected to return to the East Coast on Tuesday rather than wait for the results in one of the last two primary states.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 1, 2008; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Hillary Rodham Clinton , Primaries  
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Next: Obama Congratulates Clinton on Win, Then Looks to November

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