Democrat settlement blow to Clinton

Hopes of symbolic victory over Obama dashed by deal over disputed votes.

    Saturday's decision by committee vote will come
    as a blow to the Clinton campaign [AFP]

    Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said: "[A favourable decision] would have been a good symbolic victory for her and would also have helped her, she believed, attract more uncommitted superdelegates.
     
    "The main story of this race has not changed - Obama is still significantly ahead of Clinton."

     

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    He said Obama is expected to win the Democrat's nomination for presidential candidate after the three primaries next week.

     
    Clinton and Obama had signed a pledge with other candidates not to campaign in Michigan and Florida after the states broke party rules by holding their polls early.

    Clinton won 105 delegates in Florida and Obama 67 - but these will essentially be halved as part of the committee's decision. 

    For Michigan, Clinton will be given 69 delegates and Obama 59, which again will be halved.

     

    Party divisions

    The deal over Michigan and Florida exposed the divisions in the party, caused by Clinton's refusal to heed calls to bow out of the race for the nomination.

     

    Her supporters reacted angrily to the decision after a 10-hour meeting in a hotel Washington DC.

     

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     One woman loudly told committee members to "shut up", while another shouted "you stole my vote".

     

    Some people chanted "McCain, McCain," saying they would vote for the Republican nominee, and screamed "Denver, Denver," to demand a convention challenge in August.

    Harold Ickes, a senior Clinton aide and member of the committee which approved the deal, said her campaign might challenge the ruling.

    "There's been a lot of talk about party unity - let's all come together, and put our arms around each other," he said.

    "I submit to you ladies and gentlemen, hijacking four delegates ... is not a good way to start down the path of party unity."

     

    Clinton's camp had insisted that Obama should not receive any pledged delegates in Michigan since he chose not to put his name on the ballot, and she should get 73 pledged delegates with 55 uncommitted.


    Obama's team said that the only fair solution was to split the pledged delegates between the campaigns with 64 each.

    Primaries will be held in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.

    Church row

     

    Despite his lead in the nomination race, Obama has been dealt a political blow after he was apparently forced to end his 20-year membership of a Chicago church after remarks by ministers Trinity United Church of Christ were critised by rival Republicans and the media.

     

    "This is not a decision I come to lightly ... and it is one I make with some sadness," he said after campaign officials released a letter of resignation sent to the church on Friday.


    His move came after sermons by the church's Reverend Jeremiah Wright blamed US policies for the Septmeber 11 attacks and said "God damn America" for its racism.

    Another pastor, Reverend Michael Pfleger, had also recently made remarks on the issue of race that were seen to be controversial.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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