<!--:es-->Clinton to press ahead, regrets racial tension<!--:-->

Clinton to press ahead, regrets racial tension

NEW YORK – Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed to remain in the presidential race until the final primaries next month while her campaign built a case that she now leads in the popular vote if the disputed contests in Michigan and Florida are counted.

Clinton gave a round of television interviews Wednesday before meeting with her finance team and top fundraisers at her Washington home.

Participants described the session as upbeat and said the unifying message was that Clinton, with her lopsided victory over front-runner Barack Obama in West Virginia on Tuesday, now had the lead in votes cast thus far. The numbers, however, include the results from the Florida and Michigan primaries, which the national Democratic Party has not recognized.

“You don’t walk off the court before the buzzer sounds,” Clinton said on CNN. “You never know, you might get a three-point shot at the end.”

Advisers recalled the 2000 presidential election when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush, and warned that Democrats would be hard pressed to deny the former first lady the nomination if the primary season ends with her ahead in the vote count. They said she had attracted 22,000 new donors in the past four days and, on a conference call with reporters, campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said the campaign had pulled in a seven-figure fundraising haul online Tuesday night. He declined to offer more specific numbers.

Campaign officials also urged party leaders and elected officials known as superdelegates to remain uncommitted until the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota on June 3.

“We believe that after June 3 she will still be ahead in the popular vote as she is today,” said Alexander Heckler, Clinton’s Florida finance chairman. “If Hillary Clinton is winning the popular vote she should be the nominee.”

That scenario relies on the Democratic National Committee agreeing to count the Florida and Michigan results. The national party refused to recognize the outcome of those elections as punishment to the states for moving their contests up ahead of schedule.