Clinton frees delegates to Obama, but vote could hold drama (1st Lead)
Aug 27, 2008, 21:13 GMT
Denver, Colorado - Hillary Clinton Wednesday called on her delegates to support Barack Obama, just hours before the Democratic Party's delegates were to make a formal and symbolic choice between two historic firsts - an African-American or woman presidential candidate on Wednesday.
'I am here to release you as my delegates,' Clinton said in a final meeting with her about 1,800 delegates, sparking boos and cries of 'no' from the crowd of still-bitter supporters.
The former first lady said she recognized that many in the room had hoped to vote their conscience, picking Clinton in the same way their state constituencies had in the intra-party primaries, one of the closest in modern history.
Senator Obama, 47, has already secured the centre-left party's nomination after the long primary election season, but some supporters of his narrowly defeated rival were holding out against Clinton's emotional appeal Tuesday evening for them to swing their votes to Obama in the interest of party unity.
The practice in which delegates from each state vote to formally name the party's candidate has become largely ceremonial, and candidates that lost the primary elections have freed their delegates to support the prospective nominee.
The move to even read Clinton's name during the vote at all aims to defuse tension from a historic series of state-by-state primaries pitting Clinton and Obama against each other.
Obama's supporters are said to be pushing for a nomination by acclamation which would circumvent the embarassing prospect of each state casting so many votes for Clinton. But Obama's spokeswoman Jenny Backus was quoted by Politico.com as saying they will support a state-by-state roll call.
All told, Clinton harvested more than 1,800 delegate votes during the brutal six-month-long primary season - the furthest any woman has come in securing a major party nomination.
The delegates represented 18 million votes who her supporters say will feel abandoned if Obama, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have their way.
While some Clinton delegates said they felt able to go out and work for Obama to put a Democrat in the White House, there were others at the final meeting who remained very bitter.
Raymond, 47, a delegate from California who would only give his first name, said that if there was a vote by acclamation, it would be a 'stab in the back for 18 million people.'
'I want to make sure I get to vote! What is the purpose of this convention if it's not to vote,' Maryland state senator Mary Boergers told dpa.
Over the past two days, Clinton's supporters had been passing around a petition on the convention floor in the hopes of getting 800 delegate signatures and using an obscure party rule that could force a full state-by-state roll call vote, John West, a Clinton volunteer from Illinois who is helping to organize the effort told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The vote is a traditional part of Democratic presidential conventions and allows each state to boast of its accomplishments and history and place its favourite candidate in the national limelight. It's important in mobilizing party loyalists in the November 4 general elections.
Allida Black, another Clinton delegate from Virginia who is ready to go to work for Obama after Hillary's inspirational speech Tuesday night, said she doesn't understand what Obama's campaign is afraid of.
'Hillary won't win all the delegates and this won't be a landslide,' Black said, adding that many of Clinton's supporters will likely vote for Obama. 'Afterwards we'll all go out and smash (presumptive Republican nominee John) McCain.'
Boergers and Allida say their votes would not be against Obama but the fulfillment of an obligation they have to the voters who elected them as Clinton delegates.
Boergers also feels it's unfair that the Obama campaign has laid the responsibility to create party unity at the foot of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton instead of directly reaching out to her supporters.
'I am so tired of people saying it's up to Hillary and Bill to bring people together,' Boergers said, adding that they've already gone the extra mile.