Clinton supporters debate merits of roll call vote

It may be Barack Obama's party, but that may not prevent an emotional show of support for former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Democratic National Convention later this month.

Aides to Obama, who will formally accept the Democratic nomination in Denver on Aug. 28, are girding for the possibility that Clinton's backers will force a roll call vote that would demonstrate the extent of support for the New York senator.

"There's no perfect solution for anybody," Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager, told USA TODAY this week. But he expressed confidence Democrats will pull together no matter what the outcome. "I think we will end up being just fine roll call or no roll call."

Clinton picked up about 18 million votes and nearly 1,900 delegates in her primary battle against Obama. He got more than 2,250 delegates — more than necessary to clinch. She conceded to the Illinois senator June 7 and threw her support behind him, but hasn't ruled out lending her name to an effort that some ardent supporters are mounting to put her name in nomination at the four-day convention that begins Aug. 25.

At a California fundraiser last month, Clinton suggested that a roll call would be "a catharsis" for her supporters. "I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel their voices were heard and their views were respected," she told a group of Democrats in Los Altos Hills.

"I think it would be excellent," said Lorraine Hariton, who hosted the gathering.

Others are opposed. "I think it would be very divisive," said Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, who also attended the fundraiser. Stone, who said he backed Clinton in the primaries, argued that a convention tally of her support would only help the cause of the presumptive Republican nominee. "John McCain would love it," he said.

At issue is whether a floor vote on the nomination would help heal or further open wounds left by a bruising primary campaign between two history-making candidates. Obama is the first African American to win a major party nomination for the presidency; Clinton is the first woman to have vied seriously for the same post.

To recognize Clinton's accomplishment, convention organizers have given her a prime-time slot to address the convention on Aug. 26 — 88 years after the 19th Amendment took effect and gave women the right to vote.

Some of Clinton's supporters are circulating a petition to put her name in nomination. Democratic Party rules require the signatures of 300 delegates, with no more than 50 coming from a single state. The rules also require that the candidate sign the petition. Whether Clinton will do so is now under negotiation with Obama.

"She's in a dicey position," Hildebrand said. "She's got a lot of people who worked incredibly hard for her, who dedicated their lives to her mission, her candidacy and who are very passionate about this."

One of those supporters is Allida Black, a George Washington University historian who said she cashed in her retirement savings to finance travel to 14 states for Clinton. Black, a Clinton delegate from Virginia, is helping circulate the nominating petition.

"This is not a spite Obama effort," she said. "This is for Hillary to get the respect her campaign merits."

Another Clinton delegate, Rosina Rubin of New York, argued that in acknowledging Clinton's supporters, the Democratic convention would also be paying tribute to an important constituency. "Her achievement this year is really a culmination of everything women in politics have done in this country since before we had the right to vote," Rubin said.

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