Tags: Clinton | Backers | vp | bid

Clinton Backers Drum Up VP Bid

Wednesday, 04 Jun 2008 10:08 AM

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Mere hours after Hillary Clinton's agonizing primary defeat, her supporters lobbied Wednesday to get their never-say-die champion onto Barack Obama's Democratic White House ticket.

The New York senator did much to stoke the speculation, refusing to concede late Tuesday as Obama wrapped up the nomination and informing colleagues that she was open to running as his vice presidential pick.

Having banked nearly 18 million votes from the five-month primary campaign, Clinton told a rally here that her ardent supporters deserve "to be respected, to be heard and no longer to be invisible."

Those votes, amassed from blue-collar workers, women and Hispanics who proved resistant to Obama's charm, could represent a powerful bargaining chip in the days to come.

Clinton's campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said she would carry crucial swing states that had rallied to her candidacy and that together, the pair would be an "unstoppable" force.

"I think we would have the White House for 16 years," he told MSNBC television, anticipating two terms each for Obama and an eventual president Hillary Clinton.

Both Obama and Clinton were Wednesday addressing an influential pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington. Aides to the two Democrats declined to say if they might meet privately on the conference's margins.

But does Obama want to risk undermining his mantra of change by running with a candidate who he has said represents all that is wrong with Washington?

And would the Illinois senator, the first black nominee of a major US party, want to have Bill Clinton looking over his shoulder in addition to the former president's formidable wife?

Exit polls from Democratic primaries, including from Montana and South Dakota Tuesday, found mixed feelings among Obama supporters about seeing Clinton on his ticket.

But for their part, many Clinton supporters anguished at her loss are threatening to vote for Republican John McCain instead of Obama in November.

Obama's communications director Robert Gibbs side-stepped the VP talk, saying that the choice of running mate was "a serious process that will begin in earnest now."

However, some prominent Clinton backers were not waiting for Obama to begin his search.

Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson said he had written to African-American leaders in Congress demanding that Clinton be placed on the Obama ticket.

"I've been in touch with her all the way in my thinking about how we can move this country in a unified way," said Johnson, who ran into trouble on the campaign trail by bringing up Obama's youthful drug use.

"And she's prepared to be a part of that unity," the African-American business mogul told CNN.

Another Clinton supporter, New York Representative Charlie Rangel, said Obama needs to reach out to her "broken-hearted" voters.

"But if we see that her candidacy is treated with respect and that we're going to have one ticket, the Obama-Clinton ticket, I think that would bring us together like no other political ticket in history," he said.

Clinton gave every indication that her campaign for her policy passions would go on, after aides she had told New York lawmakers Tuesday that she was interested in the VP slot.

"You know, I understand that a lot of people are asking, what does Hillary want?" she told her home-state supporters.

"Well, I want what I have always fought for in this whole campaign," she said, listing an end to the Iraq war, universal healthcare and the chance for every child "to live up to his or her God-given potential."

If not the vice presidency, a major cabinet post in an Obama administration would give Clinton a stronger platform to pursue those aims than returning to Congress as a relatively junior senator.

One end-game question revolves around the 20 million dollars in debt that Clinton has racked up in her doomed quest for the White House nomination.

"The winning candidate always shoulders that burden if he or she wants to reunify the party," said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton surrogate who is himself touted as a possible VP candidate for Obama.

--AFP

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