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Obama, Clinton chart an endgame

NEW YORK – Two weeks before the final primary in their marathon battle, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were campaigning hard Wednesday. Both were in Florida, but their goals could hardly have been more different — or said more about how each one hopes to bring their historic race to a close.

Obama, feeling sure of the Democratic nomination, was trying to stake an early claim to a state that could be crucial in the general election against Republican John McCain. Clinton, insisting she can still be her party’s nominee, was making an impassioned plea for the state’s disputed primary results to be counted.

Obama plans to contest the final three primaries in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana, but he is already moving on, well into the early stages of a general election plan that will take him to other critical swing states in the coming weeks.

His campaign was offering some new delegate math — before the last votes were cast.

Because of how the party allocates its delegates, Obama almost certainly cannot win the nomination based on the 86 pledged delegates yet to be claimed in the final three contests. But his advisers project that he needs just 25 to 28 more superdelegates to come aboard by the end of the primaries to put him over the top. The campaign’s estimate were confirmed through a separate tabulation by The Associated Press.

As for Clinton, aides said she has two immediate goals: to see the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries restored, and to persuade the remaining uncommitted superdelegates that she would be the better candidate in November against McCain.

While she has signaled that the race will soon end after the final primaries June 3, Clinton is also counting on a meeting of the Democratic Party’s rules committee May 31 to bring an end to the dispute over Michigan and Florida, whose delegates were striped after they violated party rules by moving up their contests.

If the committee does not satisfactorily resolve the matter, the New York senator hinted Wednesday she would support a drawn-out battle that could go to the party’s convention in August.

“Yes I will. I will, because I feel very strongly about this,” Clinton said in an interview with The Associated Press when asked whether her campaign would support Michigan and Florida if they pressed the issue into the summer.