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January 30, 2008
Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Florida by a wide margin, beating Barack Obama, 50 percent to 33 percent. Florida doesn’t have any Democratic delegates on the table—the national party stripped them from the state after it moved up its primary in violation of party rules. But turnout was heavy, and Florida was the largest and most diverse state to vote so far, giving Clinton a possible boost after her South Carolina loss. The Democrats didn't campaign in Florida, but Clinton held a victory rally. Obama’s campaign responded, “Obama and Clinton tie for delegates in Florida. 0 for Obama, 0 for Clinton.” (The Miami Herald, free registration)
What the commentators said
What does her Florida “win” mean? said Frank James and Jason George in the Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp blog. “Not much.” It was a “Potemkin village of a race” in the state, and Clinton topped it off with a “Potemkin victory celebration.” By appearing in Florida, though, Clinton did show its voters that the Democrats are “simpatico with them,” which could be important in November.
Forget November, said The Miami Herald in an editorial. The Democrats would be smart to seat the Florida delegation in August, at its convention. The electoral “death penalty—no delegates and no pre-primary campaigning”—was a snub to “Florida’s four-million-plus registered Democrats.” Is that smart in a crucial swing state? Clinton now wants to seat the delegates, but her late conversion looks “entirely self-serving.”
Well, Clinton probably “got what she wanted out of Florida,” said Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post’s The Fix blog (free registration). Her victory speech got “wall-to-wall television coverage,” and despite Obama’s best efforts, “average voters” probably don’t know that “Florida was not contested” and is delegate-free.
Florida will only be delegate-free if the nomination is wrapped up by August, said Walter Shapiro in Salon. “And it is a big if.” The silly “press-release battle” over the “Florida beauty contest” will fade away as Obama and Clinton fight for the “1,681 real delegates” up for grabs next Tuesday. But it will “return with a vengeance” if the two are still fighting for delegates at the convention.
Nothing Clinton says can make her deserve any delegates, said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post (free registration). The results in Florida would have been different if she and Obama had actually campaigned there, and an “ersatz” victory party can’t “retroactively” give the vote “weight.”
of The Week magazine.