Clinton urges support for Obama
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” Hillary Rodham Clinton was taking the stage Tuesday in a role she would rather not play ” telling her loyal delegates at the Democratic National Convention that they need to line up behind Barack Obama, the man who dashed her hopes of becoming America’s first female president.
Clinton’s appearance was the main event of the convention’s second night, but it was far from the role she envisioned more than a year ago when she launched her presidential bid. She was the prohibitive front-runner then but soon found herself in a riveting struggle with Obama that she could not win.
Obama, seeking to become the first black U.S. president, needs Clinton supporters, especially the white, working-class voters who were some of her strongest backers. They hold the key to must-win swing states if Obama is to win the White House. Clinton has urged them to vote for Obama.
Many of her supporters remain wary of the 47-year-old first-term senator. The ill-will that remained after a tough primary fight was compounded when Obama chose veteran Sen. Joe Biden over Clinton as his vice presidential running mate.
Republican candidate John McCain has sought to deepen Democratic fissures. On Tuesday, his campaign brought out a new ad pointedly invoking her criticism during the campaign that Obama was not ready to lead.
McCain has managed to catch up with Obama in national polls, despite the unpopularity of McCain’s fellow Republican, President George W. Bush. He has challenged Obama’s national security credentials and criticized him for opposing offshore oil drilling at a time of high gasoline prices.
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Democrats looked to the convention to give Obama fresh momentum. The nationally televised four-day event will culminate with Obama accepting his party’s presidential nomination Thursday. The party has handed out 75,000 tickets for the event in an outdoor sports stadium.
On Monday, Obama’s wife, Michelle, described her husband’s traditional family values in a speech attempting to reassure voters wary of a candidate with an exotic name and background. One of the party’s most revered figures, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, battling brain cancer, also made an impassioned appeal for Obama.
Despite the convention’s tightly managed script, the party has been unable to avoid controversies.
Democrats have struggled to find the appropriate role for Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. They looked to satisfy the Clintons’ many loyal supporters without taking the spotlight from Obama.
The party agreed to give Bill Clinton a prime speaking spot on Wednesday night, even though his support of Obama has appeared tepid.
The two camps have been trying to reach a compromise that will allow Hillary Clinton to receive votes at the roll call Wednesday in which Obama will win the nomination formally. Democratic leaders fear a vote could highlight party divisions, but Clinton supporters say it would be an important signal of whether Obama respects them and their favored candidate.
Clinton and Obama supporters also have clashed about how aggressively they should take on McCain. Democrats have been frustrated by McCain’s taunts, but Obama risks undermining his bipartisan image should he strike back too hard.
Much of the attention has focused on former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s keynote address Tuesday night. Keynote speeches are among the most closely watched at conventions and can launch a little-known politician to national fame, as it did with Obama in 2004.
Warner has drawn criticism for saying he will appeal for bipartisanship instead of attacking McCain.
But Warner’s position was defended by Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He told a gathering of Ohio delegates that “we don’t need to attack McCain” at the convention’s opening events. “There will be plenty of time for that.”
McCain has had a low-key week as Democrats command the spotlight. He is expected to name his vice presidential choice in coming days, ahead of next week’s Republican convention. Two prospective contenders were to be in Denver on his behalf to assail Democrats: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday.