Clinton to Get Roll-Call Vote at Nominating Convention
Friday, August 15, 2008
After weeks of maneuvering aimed at producing a display of unity when Democrats gather in Denver later this month, Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign announced yesterday that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be formally nominated and her name included in a roll-call vote at the Democratic National Convention.
The move represented the latest, and potentially most important, symbolic gesture by Obama to Clinton supporters, and could blunt the threat of an upheaval on the convention floor. Some Clinton backers have threatened to stage a walkout or leave Denver altogether after she speaks on Aug. 26 to protest what they view as a flawed and sexist party nominating process.
In a joint statement, the two camps said the decision to enter Clinton's name into nomination was mutual, and they countered the idea that she had forced her way back into the spotlight.
"I am convinced that honoring Senator Clinton's historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together in a strong united fashion," Obama said in the statement. It went on to say he "encouraged" the roll-call vote as a way to recognize "the historic race she ran and the fact that she was the first woman to compete in all of our nation's primary contests."
Clinton countered with a respectful tribute to the presumptive Democratic nominee. "With every voice heard and the party strongly united, we will elect Senator Obama president of the United States and put our nation on the path to peace and prosperity once again," she said.
Advisers on both sides said Clinton had initially been reluctant to pursue a roll-call vote for fear that defections would mean she would register an even smaller delegate count than she did during the primaries. She is also eager to avoid further inflaming her base, aware that any mid-convention disruption would reflect negatively on her.
But after a series of meetings with her most ardent supporters, Clinton concluded that it would be wise to suggest a roll-call vote. She said as much at a closed-door fundraiser early this month, when she cited the "incredible pent-up feelings" she knew some of her backers needed to air. "The best way I think to do that is to have a strategy so that my delegates feel like they've had a role and that their legitimacy has been validated," she said in remarks that were captured on videotape and eventually became public.
"It's as old as Greek drama. There's a catharsis. Everybody comes, and they want to yell and scream and have their opportunity, and I think that's all to the good," Clinton said.
When those comments surfaced, Obama initially appeared to contradict Clinton, saying he was letting his campaign team handle the details. "I don't think we're looking for catharsis," he said. "I think what we are looking for is energy and excitement about the prospects of changing this country, and I think that people who supported a whole range of different candidates during the primaries are going to come out of that convention feeling absolutely determined that we have to take the White House back."
Obama advisers have had their own moments of pique recently, after not only the "catharsis" remark but also comments made by former president Bill Clinton, who initially declined to forcefully endorse Obama in his first interviews since the primaries ended, as well as Howard Wolfson, the former communications director for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Wolfson said she would have won the Iowa caucuses had former senator John Edwards not been on the ballot.
Still, Obama advisers characterized the dealings with Clinton backers as a minor distraction, and said they are determined not to allow any intraparty problems to dominate the Denver program. Obama invited the former president to speak at the convention on Aug. 27, the night before the senator from Illinois will accept his party's nomination. Hillary Clinton will have a prime speaking role on Aug. 26, a night that will also emphasize the role of women in politics. She is expected to remain in Denver all week, a show of support for Obama despite the painful and extended primary season that officially ended when she dropped out June 7 -- and even though she is almost certain not to be chosen as Obama's running mate.
How, exactly, the roll call will work remains an open question, advisers on both sides said. After having her name entered into nomination, Clinton could then ask her delegates to support Obama, bypassing the long process of reading names aloud. But several advisers said they think there will be some kind of roll call, which could begin as early as Tuesday night of the convention. As a superdelegate, Clinton is expected to vote for Obama.