- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is conceding the Democratic presidential nomination to Sen. Barack Obama, as party leaders and strategists began to openly oppose the former first lady’s aggressive efforts to join the ticket.

“Senator Clinton will be hosting an event in Washington, D.C., to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement Wednesday night. The event is set for Saturday.

A series of other events Wednesday consolidated Mr. Obama’s power over the party as its de facto nominee - a continuing surge of superdelegate endorsements, statements by party elders that the race is over, and his naming of a vice-presidential team, which brought about the inevitable debate over Mrs. Clinton as a running mate.

Former President Jimmy Carter told a British newspaper that choosing the former first lady, who has refused to concede defeat, would be “the worst mistake that could be made.” He told the Guardian that since half of each Democrat’s supporters don’t like the other, Mr. Obama would run the risk of “the worst of both worlds.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Clinton supporter, disputed the notion that Mrs. Clinton’s strong second-place finish gives her leverage on the all-but-certain nominee.

“There’s no bargaining. You don’t bargain with the presidential nominee. Even if you’re Hillary Clinton and you have 18 million votes, you don’t bargain,” he said.

The former first lady agreed to back Mr. Obama during a lengthy conference call with “impatient” House Democrats on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Obama aides said their team had no scheduled plans for the candidates to appear together.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday night attended a $2,300-per-person fundraiser on New York’s Park Avenue, which he called “our first post-nomination event” to applause and whistles. At the event, attended by “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker among other celebrities, Mr. Obama repeated his recent praise of Mrs. Clinton, saying his daughters will grow up taking for granted that a woman can be president.

“Your junior senator from New York engaged in an extraordinary campaign,” he told the crowd. “Now that the interfamily squabble is done, all of can focus on what needs to be done in November.”

Also Wednesday, Mr. Obama swiftly compiled a three-member team to lead his vice-presidential search: choosing Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and former deputy attorney general Eric Holder to join Washington insider Jim Johnson.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategists offered answers to the question: What’s in it for Mr. Obama to pick Mrs. Clinton as his running mate?

“Not much,” Democratic strategist Bud Jackson said. “I’m not able to offer many good things. Barack Obama campaigned on change; he campaigned on many things that Hillary Clinton represents.”

Said party strategist Jim Duffy: “He is a fresh face, and she’s anything but that. To put her on the ticket really conflicts with his core message of a new politics.”

Mr. Obama on Wednesday picked up another 21 endorsements from superdelegates, to add to the 51 who announced their support Tuesday, as many Democrats also sought to move past the divisive primary season and prepare for battle with Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“Our focus now is on victory in November and on giving Barack Obama every ounce of our support,” eight previously uncommitted Democratic senators said in a statement.

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  • Another statement issued by top party leaders who have remained neutral - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Deanand West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, head of the Democratic Governors Association - sounded a similar note.

    “Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election,” they wrote.

    While Mrs. Clinton spent a mostly quiet day visiting her campaign headquarters in suburban Virginia to thank her staff for their efforts, Mr. Obama was greeted as a hero when he returned to Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers swarmed him, patted his back and shook his hand.

    The victor and the loser met awkwardly at a Washington hotel, where both were addressing a pro-Israel group.

    “I just spoke to her today and we are going to be having a conversation in the coming weeks, and I’m very confident how unified the Democratic Party’s going to be to win in November,” Mr. Obama told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that it was “not a detailed conversation.”

    An aide described the encounter as “cordial.”

    Mrs. Clinton is making an open bid for the No. 2 slot, refusing to concede defeat Tuesday after Mr. Obama secured enough delegates for the nomination and directing her supporters to weigh in on her Web site. Before she rides off into the sunset, among other things, she wants a prominent role in securing her signature issue, universal health care; help retiring her massive debt; and a front-row spot in the party’s convention in August.

    On Tuesday, after Mr. Obama reached the magic number of delegates to secure the nomination, Mrs. Clinton refused to acknowledge the milestone, instead demanding “respect” for her nearly 18 million supporters.

    On her campaign blog Wednesday were dozens of anxious pleas for her to stay in the race until the summer nominating convention in Denver, when Mr. Obama would officially accept the party nod.

    “Hillary, do not give up! Let’s go all the way to the convention!” one supporter wrote in the comments, before veering into all-capital letters: “Denver! Denver! Denver!”

    Despite advice from party leaders that Mr. Obama not choose his former rival, several Democratic strategists said there are still advantages to building what many party faithful call “the dream ticket.”

    For instance, Mrs. Clinton far outperformed Mr. Obama in big Democratic states crucial to a win in November, and drew huge support from working-class whites and Hispanics.

    “She brings a healthy constituency to the table that Obama obviously had a lot of trouble with,” Mr. Duffy said.

    Then there’s women - the core of the former first lady’s supporters. White women preferred Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama by 24 percentage points in this year’s Democratic contests, according to exit polling.

    Some women are threatening to stay home or cross over to support Mr. McCain, and he angered feminists in a January debate when he said dismissively, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

    So would putting Mrs. Clinton on the ticket appease women?

    “No. He gets nothing but an unbelievable headache and a disaster for his campaign,” said Dick Morris, who worked as a pollster and adviser in the Clinton White House.

    “I don’t think he gets a single vote,” he said, adding that the vocal party activists vowing to stay home or switch sides are “just Hillary’s people trying to chant that reaction.”

    “I don’t think that that’s how voters feel, and I don’t think that putting Hillary on the ticket would appease them at all.”

    Then there’s Bill Clinton. On Tuesday, when the nation’s final primaries were being held, he called a reporter a “scumbag.” Throughout the campaign, political pundits opined that he had done more harm than good, angering blacks in South Carolina and eventually being dispatched on far smaller-scale campaign duties.

    “The Obama campaign would have to make strict rules, you know, about what President Clinton could and could not do during the campaign,” Mr. Rendell said. “For example, the Obama campaign would have to control his schedule; where he would go into, what states.”

    Mr. Duffy said that bringing Mr. Clinton back into the White House, even as a spouse, would present some real difficulties.

    “There are huge questions about his life, where he earns his money, and all of that would have to be vetted,” he said.

    Then there’s the question of loyalty - Mrs. Clinton did, after all, want the top slot, and might not put her heart into the role of vice-presidential candidate.

    “The Clintons present huge questions the Obama people would have to answer in their own mind as to what role they would play and would they be loyal No. 2s,” Mr. Duffy said. “You don’t want to spend all your life wondering what the person in the No. 2 slot is doing.”

    Mr. Obama will campaign in Virginia on Thursday, attending a noon town-hall forum in Bristol with former Gov. Mark Warner, who is favored to win one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats in November and whose support could help Mr. Obama in one of the presidential battleground states.

    The senator from Illinois will be in Northern Virginia for an evening rally at the 25,000 seat Nissan Pavilion in Bristow. He will be accompanied there by Gov. Tim Kaine and Sen. Jim Webb, who have won Virginia’s last two statewide elections and been the objects of much vice-presidential speculation.

    Mr. Obama said at last night’s fundraiser that he hadn’t had time to sort through his thoughts about Mrs. Clinton’s expected concession: “This weekend, I’m going home, talk it over with Michele and we’re going on a date.”

    c

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