Video: Obama starts to close in on Clinton

updated 4/4/2008 10:23:30 AM ET 2008-04-04T14:23:30

Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared Thursday to deny published reports that she told New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that Barack Obama cannot win the general election. But her campaign aides later said the New York senator had misunderstood the question.

"That's a no," she said at a news conference when asked if she had made the comment to Richardson, after saying she wouldn't discuss details of their discussion.

"We have been going back and forth in this campaign of who said what to whom and let me say this, that I don't talk about private conversations but I have consistently made the case that I can win," Clinton said.

Spokesman Mo Elleithee later said Clinton had misheard the question and thought she was being pressed anew on whether she'd be willing to disclose what she'd said to Richardson, who eventually endorsed Obama — and not her — for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Senator Clinton was simply reiterating what she had just said — she doesn't talk about private conversations," Elleithee said.

Clinton: No 'pledged' delegates
Earlier, the former first lady was asked directly whether she believed Obama would win in November if he were the Democratic nominee.

"I am sure we will have a united Democratic Party. I will do everything possible to make sure we can win and I am confident we will have a Democrat in the White House next year," she said, while adding she believed she was the best candidate and would make the best president.

Clinton, who trails Obama in pledged delegates and is unlikely to overtake him, also hinted that she hoped to persuade a few of them to back her instead of him.

"There is no such thing as a pledged delegate," she said.

Both Clinton and Obama were to address the state convention of the North Dakota Democratic Party on Friday, where delegates to this summer's national convention will be allocated. Obama crushed Clinton in the state's Feb. 5 presidential caucuses, 61 percent-36 percent.

The former first lady said she was going to North Dakota to thank her supporters and delegates — and wooing Obama supporters was fair game.

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Pledged delegates are a "misnomer. The whole point is for delegates, however they are chosen, to really ask themselves who would be the best president and who would be our best nominee against Senator McCain," Clinton said. "And I think that process goes all the way to the convention."

While the Democratic National Committee has no rules requiring pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses to vote for the candidate, the people who serve as pledged delegates are selected by the campaigns who won them and loyalty is a key qualification.

Superdelegates weigh popular vote
Obama currently leads in the delegate count, 1,634-1,500, according to The Associated Press. Because of the way Democrats apportion delegates, Clinton is not projected to catch Obama even if she has a strong showing in the remaining 10 contests.

NBC's national delegate count currently stands at 1507 for Clinton and 1640 for Obama. NBC’s estimated superdelegate count stands at 255 for Clinton and 223 for Obama.

[There are differences in how news organization count delegates, how they award superdelegates, how they account for states that have held caucuses but have not yet chosen their delegates, and how they project the apportionment of delegates within Congressional districts where the vote was close. The Associated Press and NBC news conduct separate delegate counts.]

Since neither candidate can win based solely on pledged delegates, the nominee is likely to be chosen by some 800 superdelegates — elected officials and party insiders free to side with any candidate they choose.

Clinton's comments came as one of her prominent supporters and superdelegates, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, said he would consider switching to Obama if Clinton doesn't win the popular vote.

In an interview with CNBC, Corzine expressed confidence that Clinton will pull ahead. And he agreed the race will be over if she doesn't get a "big win" in the Pennsylvania primary April 22.

"You have to have a real cut into this popular vote and I think she's going to get it, though," he said. "I feel good about that."

Obama leads Clinton by about 740,000 votes out of more than 28 million cast. That figure excludes the outcome of the Michigan and Florida primaries, which were nullified because the two states moved their contests into January in violation of Democratic Party rules.

Clinton won both Michigan and Florida, and she and her supporters have pushed to have the votes from those contests counted. Obama's lead would shrink to about 120,000 votes if the results of the January contests were recognized. Michigan Democrats are expected Friday to rule out holding a do-over election to replace the results of the Jan. 15 primary, The Associated Press has learned.

Corzine said it would be hard for Obama to argue to superdelegates that he should be the nominee if he loses the bigger states, but "I think you need at least a popular vote" to win the nomination.

Asked whether he would cast his superdelegate vote for Obama if he were ahead in the popular vote in the end, Corzine said he didn't think that would be an issue but he's "reserving the right."

At the news conference, Clinton also sidestepped questions about whether she or her husband discussed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor, when making their case to superdelegates. In an interview this week, Clinton adviser Harold Ickes acknowledged raising the subject of Wright and his anti-American sermons with superdelegates, saying Republicans would use the issue against Obama if he is the nominee.

"I think most people have made up their minds about what they think of it," Clinton said of the Wright matter. "Certainly it was heavily in the news and people sometimes have it on their minds. I think most voters process it and figure out what they think about it."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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