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Women, seniors, Latinos take Clinton to Florida win

  • Story Highlights
  • Clinton wins Florida primary but takes home no delegates
  • Exit polls show Clinton leading on issues Democrats think important
  • Polls say Clinton wins voters over 50 in retiree-heavy Florida
  • Polls estimate she also got 55 percent of women's votes
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DAVIE, Florida (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton dominated Florida's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday with solid support among women, seniors and Latino voters, but the win does little to help her quest for the party's presidential nomination.

Sen. Hillary Clinton says she wants the Florida delegates to participate in the Democratic national convention.

Party sanctions stripped the state of its convention delegates and kept Clinton and her rivals from campaigning there, making the contest largely meaningless. But after losing last week's hotly contested South Carolina race to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the New York senator and former first lady was looking to Florida to show she could win in a diverse, heavily populated state -- even one where no delegates were at stake.

"I am so grateful to the countless Floridians who, on their own, organized, worked hard, talked to your friends and your neighbors. You made a very big difference," Clinton said.

Exit polls showed Clinton led Obama and the other leading Democrat in the race, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, on all the top issues Democrats considered important -- the economy, the war in Iraq and health care. Obama only came close on the war in Iraq, which he has criticized Clinton for voting to authorize in 2002.

Voters under 30, whom Obama has worked hard to recruit in other states, made up less than 10 percent of Florida's total. Voters over 50 in retiree-heavy Florida made up nearly more than 60 percent of turnout, and Clinton won solidly among that group.

About 47 percent of voters listed the ability to bring about change as their top quality in a candidate, and a slim majority of those people supported Obama, the exit polls found. But Clinton trounced Obama and Edwards among the 23 percent who listed experience as their top quality -- leading Edwards by 7-1 in that category and 28-1 over Obama. She also led strongly among people who described "caring about people" as the most important quality.

Obama and Edwards ignored the state to concentrate on next week's Super Tuesday contests in states such as New York, California, Missouri and Georgia. Obama dismissed the contest Tuesday, and his campaign issued a statement declaring the race a tie in the delegate count: "Zero for Obama, zero for Clinton."

"I probably think it's a snapshot. It's a beauty contest that's similar to a poll of where people currently are at in Florida," Obama said. "But none of us has campaigned there, so people have no idea what the respective candidates stand for, haven't had a chance to look them over, kick the tires."

Clinton has pledged to fight to have the state's delegates seated at the August convention in Denver. Though Democrats agreed to leave the state off their itineraries in a show of solidarity with the national party, she was allowed to attend fund-raisers in Florida Sunday and appeared with supporters in Davie, outside Fort Lauderdale, after polls closed.

"I promise I will do everything I can to make sure that not only are Florida's delegates seated, but that Florida is in the winning column for the Democrats in 2008," the former first lady said Tuesday night.

A Clinton supporter, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, said about 2.5 million voters cast ballots in the Democratic primary. About 400,000 of those voters cast early or absentee ballots, state election officials said.

"This has been a record turnout, because Floridians want their voices to be heard on the great issues that affect this nation and the world," Clinton said.

Donna Brazile, who managed former Vice President Al Gore's presidential bid, said many Democrats likely turned out to vote on a state constitutional amendment that would limit property tax increases and expand homestead exemptions.

"People are very afraid this will cut public services, cut back education," said Brazile, a CNN analyst. "So the Florida Education Association and all of the unions are spending millions of dollars to get voters to turn out."

Clinton was heavily favored in Florida long before Tuesday, and fewer than a quarter of the estimated 2 million-plus voters made up their minds in the final days. Exit polls indicated those who did were split about evenly between Clinton and Obama, with a smaller share going to Edwards.

Almost two-thirds of the early deciders -- people who made up their minds more than a month ago -- favored Clinton.

Clinton led strongly among women, who made up nearly 60 percent of turnout. Exit polls estimated her share of the vote at 55 percent, compared to 29 percent for Obama and 13 percent for Edwards.

Clinton also led among men in general, but by a much narrower margin -- 43 percent to 38 percent for Obama. She also led strongly among Latino voters, who made up 12 percent of Tuesday's voters.

Obama continued to dominate the African-American vote, with exit polls finding him leading Clinton by a margin of 70 percent to 27 percent in that community. But black voters made up a much smaller proportion of turnout than they did in South Carolina -- about 18 percent in Florida, compared to roughly half in Saturday's contest.

White voters made up about two-thirds of Tuesday's voters, and Clinton took about 53 percent of that demographic, the polls found. Obama and Edwards split the remainder about equally. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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