Clinton preaches unity with Obama

August 25, 2008 7:58:04 PM PDT
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama agreed Monday to limit a divisive roll call for president, giving delegates a brief but historic choice between a black man and white woman. The deal would allow some states to cast votes for both Obama and Clinton before ending the roll call in acclamation for the Illinois senator. Clinton herself may cut off the vote and recommend unanimous nomination of Obama, according to Democratic officials involved in the negotiations. They discussed the deal on condition of anonymity while details were being finalized.

Some Clinton delegates said they were not interested in a compromise, raising the prospect of floor demonstrations that would underscore the split between Obama and Clinton Democrats.

"I don't care what she says," said Mary Boergers, a Maryland delegate who wants to cast a vote for Clinton.

As part of the deal, Obama aides circulated three petitions on the convention floor Monday night - supporting Clinton, Obama and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden. Each needed 300 signatures to be nominated.

The dealmaking indicates the divided nature of the party: Obama does not have full control over a convention that includes many delegates who are enthusiastic Clinton supporters. But both senators have an incentive to help make peace between their opposing sides - Obama so he'll have their backing in November and Clinton so she'll be well positioned for a future run.

Clinton herself said she wouldn't tell her backers how to vote, but she told them she would cast her own vote for Obama. "We were not all on the same side as Democrats, but we are now," she said.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, said the animosity that some Clinton delegates feel toward Obama "is getting worse."

Townsend, a Maryland delegate, was a strong Clinton supporter but now is fully behind Obama. She said she partly understands why some of her colleagues have not joined her yet.

"There's a moment that you want to enjoy your bitterness," she said.

Clinton advisers have been holding talks almost every day on the question of how to handle the roll call, and they were still struggling to solve the mechanics of honoring Clinton without getting bogged down in time-consuming counting.

Obama said he isn't involved in negotiations over the roll call and is letting campaign manager David Plouffe work out the details with the Clinton team.

As part of the compromise in the works for weeks, the New York senator will be the headliner Tuesday night. Her husband, former President Clinton, will speak Wednesday - part of her request that he be on a separate night, negotiators said.

An official familiar with conversations between the Obama and Clinton camps said Hillary Clinton fully realizes it would hurt her politically to be seen as anything other than 100 percent behind Obama. Bill Clinton "is not as far along" in reconciling himself to his wife's loss, said the source, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because private conversations were involved.

However, the former president is eager to draw sharp distinctions between the policies and visions of Obama and McCain.

Clinton is in discussions with Obama aides over how broad the speech should be, the source said.

It was not clear whether there would be floor demonstrations for Clinton after her name was placed in nomination, a spectacle that could detract from Obama's political coronation.

The animosity in Denver is not just on the Clinton side. Susan Castner, a Clinton delegate from Portland, Ore., said six people insulted her as she walked alone down the street Saturday night wearing a Clinton T-shirt, telling her to take it off and calling her a profanity.

"I know this is not coming from Barack Obama, but his supporters are helping us decide who to vote for" in November, Castner said. "I hate the feeling that you shouldn't wear your Hillary gear unless there are two or three of you together."

The split pales in comparison to past political convention battles like the 1980 fight between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

President Carter beat him in the primaries, but Kennedy supporters tried to take away the nomination at the New York convention.

Kennedy didn't have the votes for the nomination, and at the convention finale he shunned the hugs and clasped hands that are customary at adjournment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is chairwoman of the convention, said the party must move past their primary divisions, but there should be a full roll call vote.

"I can't imagine not going into a convention and hearing 'Alabama!' and the whole world looking up to see what comes next," she said. "But as typical of these roll calls, at a certain point, somebody has the votes and the protocol and graciousness come through and that will have its own dynamic."

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