Clinton Ramps Up Call to Count Fla, Mich

HILLSBORO, Oregon (AP) -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton Saturday strengthened her pitch to allow disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida to be counted in the nominating contest, noting the vote totals had been officially recognized in each state.

"Some say their votes should be ignored and the popular vote in Michigan and Florida should be discounted. Well, I have a different view," Clinton said at a rally here. "The popular vote in Florida and Michigan has already been counted. It was determined by election results, it was certified by election officials in each state, it's been officially tallied by the secretary of state in each state, and the question is whether those 2.3 million Democrats will be honored and their delegates seated by the Democratic party."

Both the Michigan and Florida primaries were essentially nullified after they were moved into January in violation of national Democratic party rules. The party voted to strip both states of their delegates and all the candidates, including Clinton and rival Barack Obama, signed a pledge not to campaign in either state.

Obama and several other Democratic candidates also removed their names from the Michigan primary ballot.

Both states saw record turnout in their primaries and the former first lady won both contests. Her campaign has pressed hard for the results to be recognized, even as the Obama campaign has argued Clinton is trying to circumvent rules she agreed to long ago.

Clinton's latest comments came a day after Michigan Democrats announced there would be no do-over of that state's Jan. 15 primary, vastly dimming the New York senator's chances of catching Obama in the popular vote and in pledged delegates. Democrats in Florida had already announced there would be no revote there.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has been conferring with party leaders in both states, hoping to find a way to seat their delegations. The Obama campaign has proposed a 50-50 split of both states' delegations, an option Clinton advisers have resisted.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton dismissed Clinton's latest call to recognize Florida and Michigan's results.

"Senator Clinton herself said these contests 'didn't count for anything.' But now that it serves her own political self-interest, she's trying to change the rules and count the results of contests where she and every other candidate pledged not to campaign," Burton said. "In Michigan, Senator Obama wasn't even on the ballot. Our focus should now be on seating the Michigan and Florida delegations in a fair manner."

It was Clinton's first campaign visit to Oregon, whose primary is May 20. The state holds a largely vote-by-mail primary with ballots mailed starting April 28.

At a rally in Eugene, Clinton tangled with an Obama supporter who asked whether she feared her criticisms of the Illinois senator would damage his chances if he bacame the party's nominee.

"I obviously see it differently," Clinton replied. "For those who are new to politics, you can take very personally anything anybody says. I have to tell you that there have even been some things said about me. I don't take any of it personally, or most of it seriously. That's what happens in politics."

Also Saturday, Clinton campaign officials acknowledged that an anecdote Clinton has made a staple of her stump speech in recent weeks may not have been true and wasn't thoroughly checked for accuracy before she began repeating it on the campaign trail.

Since competing in Ohio's March 4 primary, Clinton has shared the story of an Ohio woman who worked in a pizza parlor and died after giving birth to a stillborn child. The woman was uninsured, Clinton said, and twice denied medical care at a local hospital because she couldn't pay a $100 fee.

Clinton said she learned of the story from a deputy sheriff whose home she visited while campaigning in Ohio. She told the story as recently as late Friday, at a rally in Grand Forks, N.D.

Officials with O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio, have disputed the story, saying the woman, Trina Bachtel, was insured and did receive care through an obstetric practice affiliated with the hospital, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Hospital officials did not immediately return phone calls Saturday from The Associated Press.

Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee acknowledged that the campaign had tried but hadn't been able to "fully vet" the story before she began repeating it on the campaign trail.

"She tells the story as it was told to her by the deputy sheriff. She had no reason to doubt his word," Elleithee said. "If the hospital claims it didn't happen that way, we certainly respect that and she won't repeat the story. She never mentions the hospital by name and isn't trying to cast blame."

Elleithee noted that candidates often retell stories they are told by voters they meet on the campaign trail.

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