Angry Democrats Distracted DNC Attendees in Denver

Angry protesters worked to drown out Day One message of Democratic unity.


KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 26, 2008— -- 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.

'I'm Thoroughly Disgusted With the Democratic Party'

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."

Obama Says the Clintons Are Sincere

In Iowa Monday, when ABC News asked Obama if he doubted the sincerity of Clinton's endorsement, he said no.

"There are going to be some of Sen. Clinton's supporters who we're going to have to work hard to persuade to come onboard," he said. "That's not surprising. But if you take a look I think at this week, I am absolutely convinced that both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton understand the stakes."

Friends of Bill Clinton, however, say he is still angry at Obama for waging a campaign that often criticized the accomplishments of the Clinton years. They say he's also unnerved that Obama allies accused him and his wife of trying to tag Obama as "the black candidate," as on the day of the South Carolina primary when he compared Obama to Jesse Jackson, saying, "He ran a good campaign here. Jesse Jackson ran a good campaign too." Obama backers have also suggested that Hillary Clinton was trying to disrespect Martin Luther King Jr. when she argued that it took President Lyndon Johnson, a lawmaker not just an orator, to make King's dream a reality.

Bill Clinton does not believe he said or did anything wrong.

"For any innuendo to suggest ... that Clinton was raising the race card ... still angers him, and justifiably so," said Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House official and close friend of the Clintons.

Rep. Jim Clyburn was offended, and told Bill Clinton as much in a phone call around that time.

"I've always described the conversation as being less than pleasant," Clyburn said.

Davis said, "Congressman Clyburn, who before the South Carolina primary, warned President Clinton about ... 'getting too close to the line,' owes him an apology. Everybody who criticized Sen. Clinton, not Barack Obama, after she made her remark about MLK and LBJ, especially leaders of the black community who I heard criticize her, owe her an apology."

Chants of 'Sexist Pig'

Another source of tension involves perceived sexism Clinton and her supporters say they observed in the media. On Monday, Clinton supporters directed their anger toward MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, chanting "Sexist pig, sexist pig."

Matthews issued an on-air apology in January after making a comment during a guest appearance on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show "Morning Joe." While on the program Matthews said, "The reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around," referring to Clinton's success in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

"Was it fair to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband? No," said Matthews on "Hardball." "And that's what it sounded like I was saying, and it hurt people who I'd like to think normally like what I say; in fact, like me."

There has also been lingering resentment between the two camps abut post-primary issues -- the Clinton team thinks Obama has not been helpful enough in helping Clinton retire her more than $30 million in debt, believing Obama has been arrogant and rude

The Obama campaign would like the Clintons to acknowledge his win with some deference and grace.

Tonight on NY1, a New York cable news channel, Clinton's former campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told the Obama team, "You're nominated to be president. It's your campaign. At some point, quit talking about the Clintons and move on."

That would likely be easier if the Clintons and their supporters stopped talking about the Clintons and moved on, too.

ABC News' Deborah Apton contributed to this report.