Puerto Rico is a hollow victory for flailing Clinton

Even as she notched up victory in Puerto Rico last night, Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House looked to be in its death throes after a weekend legal ruling gifted her rival, Barack Obama, an all-but impenetrable lock on the Democratic nomination.

The former first lady's best hope of stopping the Obama train had been to reinstate all of the delegates from disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan. Saturday night's decision by the party's rules committee to give the reseated delegates only half a vote each came as a crushing blow, prompting an expletive-filled denunciation by one of Mrs Clinton's closest aides.

Her victory in Puerto Rico and any strong showing in the final two contests in South Dakota and Montana tomorrow are still unlikely to give Mrs Clinton any extra momentum with the 200 or so uncommitted superdelegates, whose endorsements will decide this long, protracted contest.

While Mr Obama was looking ahead to today's campaign stop in Michigan, Mrs Clinton was still canvassing for support at a rally in the Puerto Rican capital San Juan yesterday, husband Bill and daughter Chelsea at her side.

The family have spent a combined 15 days in the territory, where Hillary hopes to demonstrate her overwhelming appeal among Hispanic voters.

She was counting on a landslide victory to bolster her argument to party insiders that she has won more popular votes than her opponent and is best placed to defeat the Republican candidate John McCain.

"Well clearly, it ultimately comes down to the delegates. But I think it's very important to note that Hillary Clinton will have received more votes than anyone ever running for president on either side in primary battle," her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe stressed on ABC television.

Mrs Clinton's claim to have won the most votes since the primaries and caucuses began in January is not as straightforward as it seems. She ran virtually unopposed in Michigan after Mr Obama removed his name from the ballot, and voting totals from several caucus states cannot be calculated in the popular vote.

Saturday night's decision to share the votes of disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan led to scenes of bitterness at a time when the Democrats are trying to present a united front.

Mrs Clinton had won well in Florida and Michigan, two states that were punished for illegally moving their contests up the primary calendar. All Saturday, Democratic Party officials had debated how to get out of the impasse, while being booed and jeered by Clinton supporters. When the verdict came – giving the New York senator a net gain of 24 delegates – her personal representative at the talks, Harold Ickes, resorted to expletives to denounce the ruling and said the public vote had been "hijacked".

"This decision violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our party," he later said in a statement issued with another Clinton adviser.

Mr Ickes was signalling Hillary and Bill Clinton's fury at party leaders who once cowed before them. It was as clear a sign as any, according to the respected NBC political analyst, Chuck Todd, that "the Democratic National Committee is not somehow controlled by the Clintons ... any more."

"This is Barack Obama's party now. He's already been winning the outside game. He now won the inside game," Mr Todd said.

Casting a pall over the party's prospects for a swift burying of the hatchet, Mrs Clinton reserved the right to keep the fight going with an appeal to the Democratic National Committee at the end of the month, which would lose the party vital days to campaign against its real political enemy – the Republican John McCain. "Denver! Denver!" Clinton supporters screamed, declaring their appetite for taking the fight all the way to the August convention there.

With tempers running high, the Obama campaign appeared to be walking on eggshells in order not to further inflame irate Clinton supporters and risk losing any eventual support in November. Asked when Mr Obama will declare victory, his spokesman Robert Gibbs told ABC television: "If not Tuesday, I think it will be fairly soon." However, the confidence in the Obama campaign was reflected in a decision to have the last rally of the primary season in St Paul, Minnesota tomorrow night – the venue where the Republicans will gather to crown John McCain at their September convention.

Hillary's road ahead

*The most likely outcome is that she returns to New York this week, suspends her historic bid for the presidency and endorses Obama for the Democratic nomination through gritted teeth, all in the name of party unity.

*Making the dubious claim to have won the popular vote, she could suspend her campaign without taking the step of pledging her support for Mr Obama, in the hope that more scandals emerge in the weeks ahead that will fatally damage his campaign.

*Mrs Clinton's nuclear option is to take the fight to the floor of the Democratic Party convention in August. This could fatally damage her standing in the party, but her anger that some of her Michigan votes were handed to Mr Obama when he had taken his name off the ballot means this option cannot be totally dismissed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before