MIAMI - Senator Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Florida yesterday, a contest that generated extraordinary voter interest even though the result will have no practical effect because no delegates were at stake.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Clinton, of New York, was running ahead of Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, 50 percent to 33 percent. Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina was third, with 14 percent.
None of the Democratic candidates campaigned actively here, fulfilling a pledge to the Democratic National Committee, which punished Florida Democrats for jumping the line by scheduling their primary before Feb. 5. But supporters of Clinton and Obama worked hard to get their voters to the polls to make a symbolic show of strength.
Clinton's victory was expected and might have largely reflected her prominence on the national political scene for almost two decades. She did well among those who cast their votes early; among late deciders, Obama almost matched her, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky.
Clinton flew late yesterday to Fort Lauderdale from Washington, and in nearby Davie she thanked more than 1,000 supporters in a banquet room for a "tremendous victory."
"You know, I could not come here to ask in person for your votes, but I'm here to thank you for your votes today," she said.
She noted the record turnout of Florida Democratic primary voters and promised that, despite the lack of a formal campaign in the state, "all of your voices will go with me" if she were elected president.
By waiting until the polls closed to land in Florida, she said, she was obeying party rules. But some Obama supporters denounced Clinton's act as cynical and urged voters and journalists to dismiss Florida as a meaningless beauty contest.
"The bottom line is that Florida does not offer any delegates," said Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president. "It is not a legitimate race."
Mark Bubriski, communications director for the state Democratic Party, said the huge turnout showed the enthusiasm Florida Democrats had for the candidates.
"Florida is a microcosm of the nation," he said. "On Feb. 5 we have the closest thing to a national primary we've ever had in the United States. This is the last opportunity for voters in any state to have their voices heard before the whole country votes."
Bubriski said he believed that ultimately Florida's 210 delegates would be seated at the national convention this summer, but that it would be up to the national party's credentials committee to determine how they would be allocated.