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Exclusive: Fmr Senator Bob Graham on Clinton, Obama, And Delegates

First Posted: 03/28/08 03:45 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 01:25 PM ET

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Florida Democratic powerhouse Bob Graham declined on Tuesday night to affirm whether or not Sen. Hillary Clinton had switched her position on a DNC pledge discounting the state's delegates. Instead he chose to criticize the national Democratic Party's position.

But the former two-term senator and governor did offer that Clinton's stance was politically opportunistic, aided perhaps by wins in both the Michigan and Florida primaries.

"She has carried Michigan already and I think she will carry Florida tonight, so certainly she has more to gain by having those two states delegates vote," said Graham. "But I can't imagine that Sen. Obama would take the position that under no circumstance should the delegates from Michigan and Florida be seated because it is so contrary to the real battle in November."

Graham's words came as Clinton secured a victory in the Florida primary. The election had lost most of its luster after its delegates were stripped by the DNC - retribution for the state's decision to move up its primary. Each candidate in the Democratic field signed a pledge agreeing to the decision and promising not to campaign in the state. But in recent days the Clinton campaign has stressed that the delegates should count, citing voter disenfranchisement.

Graham too argued that Florida's voters should have a say come the Democratic Party's convention in August. And he lashed out against the party's stance, suggesting they were risking Democratic chances in the general election.

"You don't do that without leaving some scar tissue, you will have wounded pride and feelings and we've already done that by not having the candidates in the state this past week," said Graham. "If they were here they would have energized supporters and gotten publicity. I mean, the front page of every newspaper in Florida today has a Republican on it."

Florida's delegates will most likely be counted, insiders predict, but not before the party settles on a presidential candidate.

In an interview that touched on a variety of political topics, the former Intelligence Committee chair declined to endorse any of the candidates. "Oh, no," he said, when asked if he would follow his former Senate colleague Ted Kennedy. And he lauded Clinton and Obama for running strong campaigns that would appeal to voters in Florida.

As for Clinton, Graham predicted success in the upcoming February 5th super-primary in part as a byproduct of her name recognition and political proclivity. But he did offer several explanations for why her campaign, in the days leading up to the Iowa caucus and South Carolina primary, had sputtered.

"I think there may have been a little bit of the campaigning of certainty of nomination, [it] began to affect the way the campaign was being run and it lost a little of its sharpness," Graham said. "It may have been that there got to be too many cooks in the campaign kitchen and they weren't quite on the same page."

Was he, by any chance, referring specifically to the hyperactive presence of former president Bill Clinton on the campaign trail?

"I'm going to stand silent on that question," he said, "though you can read it any way you want."

Graham complimented Obama's prescience in opposing the Iraq war, as well as his focus on the situation in Afghanistan. He also offered a stern defense of the idea -- floated initially by Obama in a past Democratic debate -- that, operating on actionable intelligence, the United States should target Osama bin Laden in Pakistan even without that government's consent.

"If you had precise information as to where he was and where he would be at the time you could get your targeting mechanism deployed, I can't imagine any president not taking out Osama Bin Laden," he said. "This is an international monster who has killed 3,000 Americans in one swoop."

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