BOCA RATON, Florida (CNN) – Making a last-gasp campaign swing through Florida on Wednesday - just ten days before the Democratic National Committee will decide the fates of the disputed Michigan and Florida delegations - Hillary Clinton forcefully pressed for the primary votes in those states to be counted "exactly as they were cast."
"It is well within the Democratic party rules to take this stand," she said, defending her position in front of a sizeable audience at a Boca Raton retirement community. "The rules clearly state that we can count all of these votes and seat all of delegates, pledged and unpledged if we so choose, and the rules laid out make clear the process for doing so."
It was Clinton’s first campaign stop in Florida since the night of the state’s primary on Jan. 29, and Clinton picked a suitable venue to make her case for counting every vote: Palm Beach County, ground zero of the politically-charged 2000 Florida recount.
"We believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will," she said. "We believe it today just as we believed it back in 2000, when right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happened when the votes aren’t counted and a candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner."
The New York senator made repeated allusions to the 2000 recount and proclaimed that the Democratic party, the party of civil rights, has a duty to count every vote to determine the true intent of the electorate. Moreover, she argued, counting the votes is a simple matter of American democracy.
“I have heard some say counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules,” she said. “I say not that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country, that whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their vote should be counted.”
She avoided criticizing Barack Obama directly, but Clinton tied Obama’s decision to remove his name from the Michigan primary ballot to the current predicament facing Democrats in Michigan and Florida.
“I know that Sen. Obama chose to remove his name from ballot in Michigan and that was his right,” Clinton said, “but his choice does not negate the votes of all those who turned out to cast their ballots, and we should not let that process rob all of you from your voices.”
“You didn’t break a single rule and you should not be punished for what happened beyond your control,” she added.
Earlier in the day, on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Florida, Clinton aides spoke to reporters and emphasized Florida’s general election importance, stressing their belief that Clinton, not Obama, would fare better in the state this fall against John McCain.
The campaign also revealed a new metric by which to gauge their late-blooming momentum this primary season: Since the end of February and excluding previous contests, said spokesman Mo Elleithee, Clinton has won more contests, more delegates and the overall popular vote.