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'STILL BITTER'

Many Clinton Supporters Say Speech Didn't Heal Divisions

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The Washington Post's Eli Saslow reports on the scene of a rally and march for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in Denver. Video by Emily Freifeld/washingtonpost.com

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By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 26 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton's most loyal delegates came to the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night looking for direction. They listened, rapt, to a 20-minute speech that many proclaimed the best she had ever delivered, hoping her words could somehow unwind a year of tension in the Democratic Party. But when Clinton stepped off the stage and the standing ovation faded into silence, many of her supporters were left with a sobering realization: Even a tremendous speech couldn't erase their frustrations.

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Despite Clinton's plea for Democrats to unite, her delegates remained divided as to how they should proceed.

There was Jerry Straughan, a professor from California, who listened from his seat in the rafters and shook his head at what he considered the speech's predictability. "It's a tactic," he said. "Who knows what she really thinks? With all the missteps that have taken place, this is the only thing she could do. So, yes, I'm still bitter."

There was JoAnn Enos, from Minnesota, who digested Clinton's resounding endorsement of Barack Obama and decided that she, too, will move on and get behind him. "I'll vote for [Obama] in the roll call," she said, "because that's what Hillary wants."

There was Shirley Love, from West Virginia, who smiled at Clinton's composure, waved a button bearing her name and felt a renewed pang of regret that she had lost the nomination. "She deserves it," Love said. "That's the thing that sticks with you. Even if she can move on easily, that's not as easy for everybody else."

Most delegates agreed that Clinton's impassioned speech marked a step toward reconciliation. The crowd in the Pepsi Center stood to applaud almost every time she mentioned Obama by name.

John Burkett, a Pennsylvania delegate and staunch Clinton supporter, attached an Obama button to his shirt. A New Mexico delegate said the "H" on his shirt will be replaced with an "O" come Thursday.

"She hit it right out of the ballpark," said Terie Norelli, New Hampshire's House speaker. "I've never been prouder of a Democrat than I was tonight." Norelli said the speech made her want to work hard for Obama. "She said it better than I ever could have: Everything I worked for and that she worked for would be at risk if we do anything less."

But Clinton's performance fell far short of the panacea the Democratic Party had desperately hoped for, delegates said. Some worried that, after Clinton's public withdrawal, more voters might defect for Republican John McCain or simply stay home.

"I'm not going to vote for Obama. I'm not going to vote for McCain, either," said Blanche Darley, 65, a Texas delegate for Clinton. Darley wore a button saying "Obamination Scares the Hell Out of Me."

"We love her, but it's our vote if we don't trust him or don't like him," said Darley, who was a superdelegate for Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Weeping, Dawn Yingling, a 44-year-old single mother from Indianapolis, said that the speech was "fabulous" but that she still isn't going to work for the Obama campaign. "She was fabulous, nothing less than I expected. It's hard to sit here and think about she would have accomplished. We're not stupid -- we're not going to vote for John McCain," she said. But she'll limit her campaigning to a House candidate. "It will take a Congress as well as a president. That's what I can do and be true to who I am."


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