APTOPIX Clinton 2008
Elise Amendola  /  AP
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in Caguas, Puerto Rico, on Saturday.
updated 5/31/2008 10:15:20 PM ET 2008-06-01T02:15:20

The candidate is on an outdoor stage, her shoulders bobbing and weaving as two reggaeton performers dance around her. Welcome to Hillary Rodham Clinton's most excellent adventure.

She has just given a mercifully short 10-minute speech and would soon wade into the rope line, all smiles, signing T-shirts, taking pictures and otherwise mugging with a crowd that had waited more than four hours to see her.

Party leaders are demanding a quick end to the Democratic contest. Yet her legions of loyal backers have no qualms about pressing on. With the end of the primaries able to be counted by the clock — 72 hours away — Clinton appears unflappably amused.

"Campaigning in Puerto Rico is like one long Puerto Rican Day parade," she said cheerfully on Saturday, invoking the annual New York City event that is a staple for politicians.

Clinton and her aides publicly say she remains determined to win the Democratic nomination. But with rival Barack Obama on the verge of becoming the party's nominee, they are clearly prepared for finality next week. Senior aides say they enter these last days believing, in the words of one campaign official, that they have "left it all on the field."

Puerto Rico votes Sunday; Montana and South Dakota hold their primaries Tuesday. Clinton kept a busy schedule Saturday, holding a health care session in the morning and touring San Juan's outer suburbs for the remainder of the day in flatbed truck caravans. She planned to return to South Dakota on Monday.

"Go out and vote on Sunday. Bring your friends and your family with you, make sure your voices are heard," Clinton told a San Juan crowd that had been awaiting her arrival for hours late Friday.

Mich., Fla., votes
She embarked on her caravan Saturday while a panel of the Democratic National Committee convened in Washington to determine the fate of the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries. Clinton won the most popular votes in those two states earlier this year, but the DNC did not award the state delegates as punishment for holding elections earlier than party rules allowed.

Meanwhile, Clinton pressed her case with a dwindling number of party leaders and elected officials who can vote for a party nominee as so-called superdelegates. The essence of her case is that she has amassed more votes than Obama and that she is better positioned to beat the presumed Republican nominee, John McCain, in the fall.

Both arguments have flaws, however, and have not proven to be persuasive with superdelegates. In the past 11 days, as she has pressed her claims, four superdelegates have endorsed her and 19 have endorsed Obama. Obama is a mere 42 delegates short of the 2,026 needed to clinch the nomination, in the Associated Press tally.

Winner of popular votes?
Clinton claims to have won the most popular votes since the primaries and caucuses began in January, but that includes results from Michigan and Florida. Obama leads Clinton by nearly 450,000 votes in primaries and caucuses where delegates were at stake, according to an Associated Press analysis.

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When the Michigan and Florida results are included, along with the nonbinding results in primaries in Washington, Nebraska and Idaho, Clinton has a 126,553 vote lead out of more than 35 million votes cast.

Clinton also points to polls showing her beating McCain in some battleground states. But political analysts say those early readings are hardly predictive because voters have not been exposed to a general election campaign.

If she were the general election candidate, she would face much harsher treatment from McCain's Republican allies than she did from Democrats. Hillary and Bill Clinton's 1990s tenure at the White House was hardly an issue in the primaries; attacking his presidency seemed simply out of bounds.

The Clinton campaign hopes to build her popular vote in Puerto Rico, where polls show her with a lead that reflects her overall support among Latino voters. But officials here have predicted a turnout between 20 and 30 percent, which would not generate the vote totals Clinton aspires to get.

Campaigning in the commonwealth
Still, the Clinton family has campaigned hard in the commonwealth. Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton have spent 14 days on the island and by tomorrow will have visited 48 of the territory's 78 municipalities.

Obama has not been in Puerto Rico since last week, spending only 23 hours campaigning. But his presence is evident. As her bus caravan motored down a highway in the outskirts of San Juan, it passed a soundtruck blaring an Obama Spanish language ad: "Yo soy Barack Obama y apruebo este mensaje."

The campaign here has a decided Latin flavor. Bumper stickers call Clinton "la presidenta." Salsa music overwhelms her events. As she toured the municipality of Catano on a flatbed truck Saturday, a merengue song in her honor boomed from the caravan's soundtruck.

And from the streets, shouts of: "Hee-lah-reee!"

Clinton, dressed casually in slacks and lavender blouse and sensible sandals, laughed and waved.

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

Video: Puerto Rico readies for vote

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