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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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For Clinton's supporters, it was difficult to accept her speech as the public finale of her campaign, because this moment once held such tremendous potential. Shelby Leary, a delegate from West Virginia, stood to watch a video tribute to Clinton's success as a trailblazer and then chanted "Hillary" for 30 seconds with the rest of the crowd. Anne Price, from Washington state, wore a dozen Clinton buttons and wiped tears from her eyes.

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It seemed a particularly resonant moment Tuesday night, which marked both Women's Equality Day and the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage.

"There's no way this night couldn't be emotional," Leary said. "A lot of us loved campaigning for her, and it's hard to watch it end. But after something like this, you have to have an emotional end for people to come to terms with things."

Clinton said Tuesday night that it is Obama's convention. But many of her supporters came here exclusively to honor her. One group traveled from New York and built an impromptu museum commemorating Clinton's historic campaign. Another lighted thousands of candles in a park to symbolize her widespread support.

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of loyalists formed a 200-yard parade and marched through downtown. They shouted into loudspeakers and beat drums, creating a cacophony that echoed across the blocks. As they began marching, some of the supporters chanted, "We want a roll call." Many of them wore their opinions on T-shirts: Country Over Party. Damn, We Wish You Were President. Still Making History. Democrats Left Behind.

At the front of the parade route, one banner summarized their message: Hillary. Who Else?

"A lot of people came here just because they wanted to celebrate Hillary," said Elizabeth Fiechter, a New York City lawyer who helped organize the parade. "We get criticism because there's this idea that the election should move on and just leave her behind. We're not going down that quietly."

The week of festivities for Clinton delegates and supporters started Monday with a meet-and-greet, where some supporters learned that they differ from one another more than they originally thought. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that only 42 percent of Clinton voters classify themselves as "solidly behind" Obama, and that 20 percent plan to vote for McCain. But in Denver, Clinton supporters sometimes classified themselves as belonging to one of two categories: the sad and the angry.

"It just makes me upset because Hillary would have been the perfect woman to do this job," said Katherine Vincent, from Colorado. "I'm a Democrat first, but it's just difficult to get over."

"I hate Obama so much that I'm going to devote as much time to McCain as I did to Hillary," said Adita Blanco, a Democrat from Edward, Okla., who has never voted for a Republican. "Obama has nothing. He has no experience. The Democratic Party doesn't care about us. You couldn't treat [Clinton] any worse."

Perhaps the best example of the persistent divide in the Democratic Party came after Clinton's speech Tuesday night. The lights went down in the Pepsi Center, and some influential Democrats left downtown for good. They planned to head for the airport and fly home, long before Obama accepts the nomination in a speech at Invesco Field on Thursday night.

Clinton will hold a private meeting with her top financial advisers Wednesday, and many donors plan to leave immediately afterward. Terence R. McAuliffe, Clinton's campaign chairman and the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also plans to leave before Obama's speech. Many of the women from 18 Million Voices, Fiechter's pro-Clinton group, booked tickets for Wednesday and Thursday because "we really are taking a position of being indifferent to Obama," Fiechter said.

Clinton's delegates inside the Pepsi Center had no choice but to stick around, at least until the end of Wednesday's roll call.

"I wish I could leave," said Straughan, the professor from California. "To be honest, that would make this whole thing a lot easier."

Staff writers Paul Kane, Alec MacGillis and Shailagh Murray contributed to this report.


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