For some disgruntled and worried Sen. Barack Obama supporters at the Democratic convention, the program is too much Clinton – too much of the time.
With both Hillary and Bill featured prominently at the Denver conclave, the fear is that the dynamic duo will overshadow the candidate and dilute the big bounce he seeks and needs from the four-day showcase.
Add to the mix the fact that Hillary has demanded her name still be placed in nomination. Already, press reports indicate key Clinton aides will leave the convention before Obama’s Thursday night speech.
According to a report in the Financial Times, the Obama camp is counting on as much as a 10-percentage-point bounce in opinion polls post-convention.
But with Hillary holding the podium Tuesday night, and husband Bill on Wednesday, there are real fears among Obama backers they may steal his show and the media’s focus will stray from Obama and running mate Joe Biden.
Consider, for instance, the anointed Obama-Biden pair touring the swing states of the Midwest on the grand and triumphant journey to Denver on Wednesday.
Wednesday happens to also be Bill Clinton’s big day in the sun – with his address to party delegates slated for prime time.
The Financial Times cites an unnamed Washington think-tanker as noting how nominee Al Gore suffered under the Clinton glare at the 2000 convention. “The Clintons have done this before,” said the unnamed source. “And they are capable of doing it again.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times recalled the particulars of how the Gore campaign did its best to neutralize Bill Clinton – only to have the best-laid plans backfire.
In 2000, Bill Clinton got assigned the prime-time speaking slot on a Monday, with a symbolic “passing of the torch” to Gore scheduled for the next day in Michigan.
Bill Clinton, however, shot into the limelight the prior Thursday with a surprise heartfelt plea that voters should not hold Gore accountable for Clinton’s personal shortcomings. The president then arrived at the Los Angeles venue three days early, becoming a media sensation right up to the time of his big convention speech.
And there is good reason the Clintons want to distance themselves from Obama.
During his recent trip to Africa, Bill Clinton was asked whether Obama was prepared to become president, according to a Fox News report. He replied, at best, unenthusiastically: “You can argue that nobody is ready to be president.”
True to form, Bill Clinton has already gotten a jump on his time slot, making it known that he was unhappy about the assigned topic of his speech.
Politico reported that Bill Clinton was to address the theme of Securing America’s Future -- explaining how Obama would be a more effective commander-in-chief than his Republican rival, McCain.
According to several media reports, the former president would rather address the economy and general Democratic doctrine, outlining among other things how his own administration successfully pulled the economy along.
Meanwhile, Hillary and her still-loyal delegates have their own opportunities at the convention to act the role of the loose cannon.
Tuesday night in her own prime-time slot, Hillary gives the keynote address to an audience of 20,000 in the Pepsi Center downtown. Just prior to the speech, she has the singular privilege to screen for the hall a film about her life.
She will also hold a private meeting with her top financial supporters Wednesday at noon, and will thank her delegates at an event that afternoon.
On Thursday, disaffected Hillary delegates will get the opportunity to make a symbolic roll call vote for her nomination.
In a move that perhaps speaks volumes about the quest-for-unity theme, several of Hillary’s key supporters are then planning to leave town – before the Obama acceptance speech that caps off the final day of the convention.
Among them, reports The New York Times, are Terry McAuliffe, Hillary's campaign chairman, and longtime supporters Steve Rattner and Maureen White.
Of everything on Hillary's busy convention itinerary, however, it’s the delegate roll call that has Obama supporters the most nervous.
Tension in the Air
As the Financial Times reports, the delegates in the hall will be greatly outnumbered by rank-and-file Hillary fans that have descended on Denver.
These diehards are still hoping for a miracle that a consensus will build at the convention that the former first lady is the better nominee. They also know that the mood of the delegates inside may be the key to any one-in-a-million upset chance.
The Denver Post recently reported that a small group is trying to gather the signatures needed to put Hillary’s name back on the ballot.
Hillary has promised to formally release her 1,896 pledged delegates on Wednesday, but U.S. News & World Report noted in a report that as the Democratic National Convention opened Monday, “there were still behind-the-scene jitters among party leaders about what her most ardent supporters might do Wednesday when the nomination roll is called.”
Not worried, however, according to U.S. News, is New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. After coming from a New York delegation breakfast where Hillary spoke, Schumer said that her disgruntled supporters who have been threatening to shut out Obama represent a “small, small number of people that the media pay lots of attention to.”
Despite Hillary releasing her delegates to Obama on Wednesday and all the concessions to the Clintons – including the symbolic placing of her name in nomination – some of her supporters still say they will refuse to move their votes to Obama.
Pat Bakalian, a Clinton delegate from Santa Cruz, Calif., told The Associated Press she had come to Denver to vote for Hillary, “and it's what I'm going to do.”
On Monday, Hillary and Obama were still hammering out the particulars on how to give her some votes in the roll call for the Democratic presidential nomination, but then quickly end the divided balloting in unanimous consent for Obama, according to the AP.
The AP also reported that Democratic officials involved in the negotiations said Monday the concept is that at the start of the state-by-state vote for the presidential nomination Wednesday night, delegates would cast their votes for Hillary or Obama.
Then, however, the voting would be cut off after a couple of states, the officials said, perhaps ending with New York, when Clinton herself would call for unanimous backing for Obama from the convention floor.
Sounds like a plan, but the truth is that the delegates can only be advised – not dictated to.
The New York Times in its recent review of a video taken at a private Hillary event noted that Hillary professed to a gathering of the faithful: “We do not want any Democrat in the hall or in the stadium or at home walking away saying, ‘I’m just not satisfied, I’m not happy.’ That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”
Ominously, however, she added,
“I’ve made it very clear that I’m supporting Senator Obama and we’re working cooperatively on a lot of different matters. But delegates can decide to do this [or not] on their own; they don’t need permission.”
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