Campaign notebook

McCain campaign insists Huckabee can't possibly win enough delegates

The Rev. Al Sharpton warned against seating Florida and Michigan delegates. The Rev. Al Sharpton warned against seating Florida and Michigan delegates.
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February 14, 2008

John McCain's camp is seeking to strengthen its case that he has the Republican nomination locked up, saying it is mathematically impossible for Mike Huckabee to reach the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch.

"Of course I'd like for him to withdraw today," McCain told reporters in Washington, D.C., yesterday. "It'd be much easier."

But, he said, it's up to Huckabee to make that decision.

Huckabee said McCain would have "too much honor" to have the "audacity" to urge him to drop out. "It would be beneath his dignity," the former Arkansas governor said.

"We're both seeking the same job," he told reporters in Little Rock, Ark., before leaving for Wisconsin, which votes Feb. 19.

After McCain's sweep Tuesday in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, the Arizona senator has 843 delegates to Huckabee's 242, according to an Associated Press tally.

In a memo to reporters yesterday, McCain's campaign said there are not enough delegates left to be awarded for Huckabee to make the magic number. McCain, on the other hand, needs to win only about 35 percent of the 774 pledged delegates left, his campaign says.

Huckabee, however, is vowing to stay in the race, hoping to keep McCain from getting to 1,191 delegates and to somehow pull off a miracle at the GOP convention in September.


Littlest state may play

a big role for Democrats

PROVIDENCE - It's the nation's tiniest state, and it's never figured much in national politics. But this year is different in Rhode Island, which on March 4 holds presidential primaries that could help determine the outcome of the race.

Hillary Clinton opened a campaign office yesterday, two days after Barack Obama. Both are sending paid staff members, and plans are in the works for a visit from Clinton. The Republican presidential front-runner, John McCain, is scheduled to come to the Ocean State for a rally today.

"We have a unique moment in history to be the small state with the loud cry," US Representative Patrick Kennedy, an Obama supporter, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. "Rhode Islanders are excited to be in the spotlight."

Democratic voters in Rhode Island will elect just 21 delegates, while hundreds are at stake in Texas and Ohio, but that's not meaningless in such a close race, said Darrell West, a political scientist and pollster at Brown University.

Rhode Island is often called "Clinton Country" because the Clintons are well-liked in the Ocean State and have visited frequently. Most of the state's top Democrats have endorsed Clinton, including US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Jim Langevin.

A statewide poll West conducted last weekend indicated Clinton's popularity: She led Obama 36 percent to 28 percent. But the gap is narrowing. The same poll in September showed Clinton with a 19-percentage-point lead.


Sharpton urges DNC chief

not to bend on Fla., Mich.

WASHINGTON - Seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention would be a grave injustice, the Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday in a break with some prominent civil rights leaders.

"I firmly believe that changing the rules now and seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at this point would not only violate the Democratic Party's rules of fairness, but also would be a grave injustice," Sharpton said in a letter to the Democratic National Committee's chairman, Howard Dean.

Sharpton, a black activist and radio talk show host, sought the presidency in 2004.

Julian Bond, NAACP chairman, also wrote Dean recently, taking the opposite position. Bond said failure to seat the delegates would disenfranchise minority voters in Florida and Michigan. Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, and Roger Wilkins, a onetime Justice Department official, also wrote Dean urging the DNC to settle the issue before the convention for the good of the party.

The DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for moving their primaries to earlier dates in violation of party rules. Both states were stripped of their delegates, and the party's presidential candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in either state. Florida lost all 210 delegates, including its superdelegates, while Michigan lost 156.

In the delegate-by-delegate battle with Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton has pushed hard for both states' delegations to be seated.

Clinton won Florida's primary Jan. 29 and Michigan's Jan. 15, but was the only candidate to appear on the Michigan ballot after the other candidates removed their names.


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