As he watched the first night of his Democratic National Convention from the cozy living room of local supporters Jim and Alicia Girardeau, Sen. Barack Obama undoubtedly wanted his wife, Michelle Obama, the headline speaker Monday, to be the news-making highlight of the day. But vocal protestors, the media and a few complicated egos directed the public's attention earlier in the day to his primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
As frustrated Democrats converged on Denver yesterday, some began chanting "caucus fraud," while others shouted the word "sweetie," a reference to the time Obama called a female reporter by the same name. One Clinton supporter who spoke to ABC News said Obama couldn't be trusted. Another said, "He's shifty and untrustworthy." It was assuredly not the kind of message Obama and his diligently image-conscious team were counting on at the Democratic National Convention.
These voters are a tad extreme, but they represent a serious concern to the Obama camp -- an animus toward Obama among voters he needs to win over.
A new Gallup poll indicates that less than half of Clinton's supporters say they definitely will vote for Obama -- 47 percent say they're solidly behind him, 23 percent say they back him but may change their minds, and 30 percent say they will not vote or they will vote for someone else, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is sowing disunity in Denver with TV ads hammering Obama for not picking Clinton as his running mate. One ad features a former Democratic delegate for Clinton.
Clinton bashed those ads Monday.
"Let me state what I think about their tactics and these ads: I'm Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve of that message," she said.
Even though Clinton urged party unity, she also pushed the idea that she has more Democratic popular votes, saying that "18 million people voted for me. Eighteen million people, give or take, voted for Barrack." That math, however, is hotly disputed.
With comments like those, it might not come as a surprise that so many of these protestors say they don't believe Clinton really supports Obama. They also say they don't believe the compliments Bill Clinton keeps making about John McCain's leadership on global warming. Adding fuel to the fire, Hillary Cllinton's brother, Tony Rodham, met last week with McCain campaign co-chair Carly Fiorina, who held a Democrats for McCain event in Denver Monday.
"I'm thoroughly disgusted with the Democratic Party. I believe the magic of Barack Obama was his ability to turn lifelong Democrats like us into McCain supporters overnight," said Cynthia Ruccia, who organized the group Clinton Supporters Count Too as a way for swing voters to campaign against Obama.
"My vote is a protest vote. I live in Ohio, I know our votes count in a very special way because whoever wins Ohio is often the person who becomes the president of the United States. And I do not want to reward the Democratic Party with my vote. I am disgusted with them."
In Iowa Monday, when ABC News asked Obama if he doubted the sincerity of Clinton's endorsement, he said no.