Clinton delegates are unhappy, but ready to move on

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 24, 2008 

DENVER _Hillary Clinton's disappointed delegates arrived in this Democratic National Convention city Sunday upset that their candidate wasn't even considered for the presidential ticket, but also insisting that they would fully support presumptive nominee Barack OBama.

Still, the mood was one of resignation, with frustration simmering under the smiles.

"We like Hillary, but you have to move on," said New Jersey fundraiser William Harla.

"It was probably a mistake he didn't pick her," added Rachel Lavine, a New York City attorney. "I intend to vote for Obama, but he's got to help me help him."

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain tried hard to ignite a firestorm, unveiling an ad recalling some of Clinton's stinging criticism of Obama. That may well work in the nation outside this hall, where polls have said roughly 1 in 5 Clinton supporters was inclined to vote for the GOP candidate, and another 1 in 5 are undecided.

But delegates here are the committed ones, the activists who will spend much of their autumn working to win, and they almost uniformly insisted they were focusing on the future.

"I've been dealing with the angry Hillary supporters in our county," said Rita Long, a delegate from Boonville, Ind. "We've gotten some of them to come around.

"It's a 'bigger fish to fry' issue _we've got bigger fish to fry dealing with the economy and health care."

After Obama mathematically wrapped up the nomination, Clinton supporters complained about that the Obama camp lacked respect for the New York senator and warned they might sit on their hands if Obama didn't select Clinton to be his running mate.

Timothy Walch, an Iowa City-based vice presidential scholar, said it was common for supporters of vanquished presidential hopefuls to stir up a convention.

"It was inevitable that whoever went on the (Obama) ticket would be a disappointment," Walch said. "Whether Clinton supporters will in the end enthusiastically support Obama depends on her."

If Clinton vigorously urges her minions to vote for Obama when she addresses the convention Tuesday night, or asks that the roll call be suspended and Obama nominated by acclamation, the chance for a momentum-changing convention increases, Walch said.

The seeds of that mood _and also the slight prospect for the mood to turn sour _both seemed present Sunday.

"There're millions of voters who probably feel disenfranchised," said Jerry Straughan, a Clinton delegate and former professor of American government at California's Moorpark Community College.

He was particularly peeved about the role of superdelegates, party officials not bound by primary or caucus results, calling their role in the process "anti-democratic."

Clara Reid, a delegate from American Samoa, had been a Clinton backer, but switched to Obama as she became disgusted with Bill Clinton's spring rhetoric.

What soothed a lot of delegates was the choice of Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden to be the vice presidential nominee Biden is proving almost universally popular at the convention.

"If it weren't going to be Clinton, it had to be Biden," said James Ruvolo, a Clinton delegate from Toledo, Ohio. "Certainly there are people who are going to be upset, but at the end of the day, it will be about Barack Obama and John McCain."

Exactly, said Shawn Bagley, a produce broker in Salinas, Calif. He worked throughout the Central Coast for Clinton starting in March 2007.

"I'm not upset, I'm a trouper. I bleed blue," Bagley said, "It wasn't that I was against Obama, it was that I was for Hillary."

(McClatchy interns Jessica Cherry and Carly Robertson contributed.)

More from McClatchy:

Politics blogs from Anchorage to Miami, only at McClatchy's expanded politics page

Dems, seeking unity, give full votes to Michigan, Florida

One place Biden's likely to help Obama is Florida

Michelle Obama will step into spotlight Monday night

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service