Dealmaking and drama lead up to Clinton speech
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” While Hillary Rodham Clinton urges her supporters to heal a fractured Democratic Party by lining up behind Barack Obama, his Republican opponent is asking voters to remember Clinton’s own criticism that Obama isn’t ready to take that 3 a.m. phone call.
The day Clinton was to address the Democratic National Convention in a prime-time speech, John McCain’s latest TV ad played off her primary campaign spot featuring sleeping children and a phone call portending a crisis. In the new ad Clinton is shown saying: “I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.”
A narrator adds: “Hillary’s right. John McCain for president.”
Clinton has already denounced such tactics from McCain, telling supporters after similar efforts to use her words against Obama, “I’m Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.”
It’s a turnabout for Clinton, who once seemed to have the nomination in her grasp and now is being called on to defend and support the person who wrested it from her. She is effectively playing middlewoman Tuesday night ” passing a torch from her husband, the 42nd president, to Obama, who wants to succeed him as the next Democratic president.
But not without some Clinton-style political dealmaking and drama.
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The Clinton and Obama camps agreed to limit Wednesday’s divisive nominating process for president, allowing some states to cast votes for both Obama and Clinton before ending the roll call in an acclamation for the Illinois senator.
In one scenario, Clinton herself would cut off the voting and urge the unanimous nomination of Obama, according to Democratic officials involved in the negotiations. They discussed the deal on condition of anonymity while final details were being worked out.
But 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.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is Barack Obama’s convention,” Clinton told reporters. And yet, she said, some of her delegates “feel an obligation to the people who sent them here” and would vote for her.
As part of the deal, Obama and Clinton activists teamed up and circulated three petitions on the convention floor Monday night ” supporting Clinton, Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden. Each needed 300 signatures.
Clinton 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.
The lineup for the second day of the convention features 11 governors and prominent House and Senate leaders. The convention’s keynote address will be given by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a former supporter of Hillary Clinton’s.
Ceding the 2008 contest to Obama does not necessarily mark the end of Clinton’s presidential ambitions.
At 60, she could easily chase her dream in a future White House contest, activating the fierce loyalists and the women who dreamed of a female president ” and perhaps calling in an IOU from a future President Obama.
Tuesday was the first of two prime-time convention evenings dominated by the Clintons.
On Wednesday night, former President Bill Clinton is taking the stage.
While here, the 42nd president will also attend the Club of Madrid NDI International Affairs Forum “to discuss ways in which his foundation is addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems,” said his spokesman, Matt McKenna.
Conscious of his potential to overshadow Obama at the presumptive nominee’s coronation party, Clinton planned few other public outings, and no news media appearances.
“President Clinton understands this is Sen. Obama’s convention and he is here to do all he can to make Sen. Obama our next president,” McKenna said in an e-mail message.
Asked whether the Clintons’ star power could eclipse Obama during his moment in the sun, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Absolutely, positively not.”
“We’re talking about the nominee for the president of the United States,” she said.
Convention planners hoped Monday’s prime-time address by Obama’s wife, Michelle, would help cast the Illinois senator as a leader with classic American values. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s speech, a surprise in-person appeal for Obama from the cancer-stricken senator, was an implicit plea for unity.
Michelle Obama told cheering delegates and a national television audience that she and the possible future president share with them the same hopes and dreams. She described herself as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother, no different from many women, and said she and her husband feel an obligation to “fight for the world as it should be.”