Aug. 23, 2008 — -- Two years ago, she was considered the presidential frontrunner. But today, Sen. Hillary Clinton isn't even on the 2008 Democratic ticket.
While Democrats insist they will rally behind Sen. Barack Obama and his vice presidential pick, some Clinton supporters remain bitter about what could have been.
Clinton's former communications director and top adviser Howard Wolfson wrote today that his former boss would have been the best vp pick, but that Biden might help Obama win over working class voters that heavily supported Clinton in the Democratic primary.
"I have long been on record in support of Hillary Clinton for v.p., but it is clear that was never in the offing. Clinton aside, Joe Biden was the best possible pick for Senator Obama," Wolfson wrote in the New Republic.
But Wolfson said Biden "won't automatically bring along disaffected Hillary voters, especially those who are older women. But no one was going to do that besides Hillary anyway."
Clinton herself offered a gracious tone Saturday morning, releasing a statement praising Obama's vice presidential pick, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., a longtime Washington lawmaker who brings foreign policy credentials to the ticket.
"In naming my colleague and friend Sen. Joe Biden to be the vice presidential nominee, Sen. Obama has continued in the best traditions for the vice presidency by selecting an exceptionally strong, experienced leader and devoted public servant," Clinton's statement read. "Sen. Biden will be a purposeful and dynamic vice president who will help Sen. Obama both win the presidency and govern this great country."
Indeed, Biden may be a good choice for Clinton if she decides to take a run at the Democratic nomination in 2012 should the tide turn against Obama. At that point, Biden will be 69 years old, and perhaps less inclined to vy for the nomination than Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., or Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., -- setting Clinton up as an experienced, viable candidate.
Both Obama and Clinton publicly have sought to heal the tensions that have lingered after a brutal, five-month-long Democratic primary battle.
In a deal reached to mollify Clinton and her supporters, Obama agreed to allow Clinton's name to be placed in nomination at this week's Democratic nominating convention.
"I am convinced that honoring Sen. Clinton's historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together in a strong united fashion," Obama said in a joint statement with Clinton.
After weeks of negotiation with the Obama campaign, former Clinton campaign officials said they wanted Clinton's name to be in nomination. Obama personally had let his staff know that was fine with him.
"I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard and their views were respected. I think that is a very big part of how we actually come out unified," Clinton, D-N.Y., said at a California fundraiser last month, in a video clip captured by an attendee and posted on YouTube.
A number of high-profile Democrats had publicly pushed for a so-called Obama-Clinton "dream ticket".
"If you really want a winning ticket, this is it," Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a June interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos". "I've looked at every other possible candidate. No one brings to a ticket what Hillary brings -- 18 million people committed to where she's going."
Feinstein and other Clinton allies argued the wide support she received during the primaries from white, blue-collar workers, women, Hispanics and older voters would boost Obama's chances in key battleground states.
"I think she has the qualifications to be president, and I think she would be very strong as a campaigner. So you're doing the two things that need to be done to be qualified," New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, said July 30 on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Other Clinton supporters had publicly suggested the former first lady would have been the nominee had news of former Sen. John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter broke during the Democratic primaries.
"I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," former Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com.
"Our voters and Edwards' voters were the same people," Wolfson said the Clinton polls showed. "They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama."
A small minority of Clinton supporters are even refusing to vote for Obama, arguing Clinton won the Democratic primary's popular vote if Michigan and Florida votes were fully counted -- though Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot and both primaries were held early against the will of the national Democratic Party.
"I really don't care who he chooses as vice president because I'm not going to vote for him regardless," Democrat Will Bower recently told ABCNews.com.
Bower is the co-founder of PUMA, which stands for Party Unity My A**, a Washington-based group urging Clinton to fight for the nomination all the way to the party's convention next week in Denver.
But other former Clinton backers argued the former first lady would have outshone Obama -- a no-no for any running mate or vice president.
"She is such a towering personality that she could have occupied a great deal of media real estate on her own, complicating Obama's challenge of communicating who he is directly to the public," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and former Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign spokesperson in 2000.
Political analysts argue Obama needed to pick someone he could trust and get along with for the next four to eight years, should he win the White House.
Obama's relationship with Clinton was put under further scrutiny this month when leaked emails from Hillaryland revealed just how far some Clinton supporters were willing to go to push Obama out of the primaries.
In a strategy e-mail to Clinton and her top advisers, former Clinton strategist Mark Penn's wrote, "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.
"Let's explicitly own 'American' in our programs, the speeches, and the values. He doesn't," Penn added. "His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited."
Clinton did not heed Penn's advice.
There is also the matter of whether Clinton truly wanted the job.
As speculation mounted about a possible joint ticket after the Democratic primaries, Clinton's campaign released a statement: "While Sen. Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her. ... The choice here is Sen. Obama's and his alone."
But after a bitterly-fought Democratic primary battle, supporters close to Clinton believed she wasn't eager to be Obama's vice presidential candidate.
Publicly, Clinton has enthusiastically endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee and embraced his vision for the country.
"This isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company," she told a crowd of thousands of supporters, mostly women, who came to hear her June concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington.
"I am standing with Sen. Obama to say, 'Yes we can,'" she said.
But as the general election heated up, Clinton appeared to be laying low, publicly rededicating herself as the senator from New York rather than a high-profile Obama surrogate.
And there are signs the New York senator may be quietly laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2012.
After her defeat, Clinton sent donors an e-mail noting that she would welcome contributions of general election funds they donated to her presidential campaign to her anticipated 2012 Senate bid.
But those funds from her Senate account could be transferred into a possible 2012 bid for presidency, if Clinton decides to run.
The Markham Group -- a firm that directed all of Clinton's advance work -- also purchased the Web site HRC2012.com, though a Clinton spokesperson denied the site may be early groundwork for another presidential bid.
"The only 2012 race she is interested in is her Senate re-election bid," Mo Elleithee told ABC News.
Many Democrats close to both senators say tensions remain between the ex-rivals.
Clinton has publicly campaigned with Obama only once since losing the Democratic primary -- a day of choreographed unity at a Democratic rally in Unity, N.H., where the once-bitter rivals held hands and praised each other before a throng of news cameras.
"I've admired her as a leader; I've learned from her as a candidate," Obama told a cheering crowd of 4,000. "She rocks. She rocks. That's the point I'm trying to make."
Clinton headlined a few solo campaign rallies for Obama in Florida and Nevada in August, urging her supporters to vote against Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"Anyone who voted for me or caucused for me has so much more in common with Sen. Obama than Sen. McCain," she said in Henderson, Nev., on Aug. 8.
Despite the public displays of unity, Democrats who witnessed an Obama fundraiser with Clinton's top donors in June reported it as more awkward than unifying.
"This felt like when your mom forces you to go visit your Aunt Ida and she has to pinch your cheeks and you're sitting there in an uncomfortable suit and you can't wait to leave," a top Clinton donor told ABC News' Kate Snow.
Clinton supporters also are angry Obama hasn't done more to help his ex-rival pay off her $25.2 million campaign debt, including her own $13.2-million personal loan to the campaign.
They were infuriated when Obama had to be reminded to ask donors at a fundraising event this summer to help Clinton.
"Hold on a second guys, I was getting all carried away!" Obama said, rushing back to the stage to address New York donors in July. "Sen. Clinton still has some debt. And I could have had some debt if I hadn't won, so I know the drill. There are many supporters of mine here who have not yet given something to help her retire that debt."
Many Obama supporters are loath to help pay off Clinton's reported $10-million debt to Penn, who has been blamed for Clinton's failed "inevitability" campaign strategy in a year when Democratic voters wanted "change."
"I believe she's going to be the nominee," Penn confidently predicted in an interview with ABC News' "Nightline" in September 2007. "I think every day is a good one, and I think that as every day goes on people see that she has the strength and experience to become president."
Clinton's hard-fought battle to become the first woman Democratic nominee fell short and many Obama supporters were insulted by the Clinton campaign's tactics.
Democrats point to former President Bill Clinton's comments early on in the primary characterizing Obama's early Iraq opposition to Iraq as "a big fairy tale."
Things became even more heated when the former president dismissed Obama's South Carolina primary, likening it to Rev. Jesse Jackson's S.C. primary wins in 1984 and 1988.
Their rivalry became so bitter that when Obama finally won enough delegates to clinch the party's nomination, Clinton initially refused to concede the race.
"This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight," she told supporters in New York City on June 3, the night Obama effectively won the nomination.
Her supporters chanted "Denver, Denver, Denver," urging her to fight to the party's convention in August.
But even without Clinton on the ticket, Lehane argues most Clinton supporters will line up behind Obama.
"At the end of the day," Lehane said, "loyal Clinton supporters support her because of the values, ideals and issues she fights for and appreciate that if we want to change the direction of the country that it is a no brainer to get behind Obama and do everything possible to help him win -- regardless of the fact that Hillary is not on the ticket."
ABC News' Jake Tapper contributed to this report.