- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DENVER | Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton relished one final public embrace Tuesday from the millions who propelled her historic campaign, then rallied them behind the man who crushed her presidential aspirations in a rousing speech that declared “it is time to take back the country” from a failed Republican leadership.

Laying rest to a bitter primary battle that left many of her supporters - especially women - seething months later, Mrs. Clinton used her prime-time convention address to reassure her coalition of 18 million voters that Barack Obama and his running mate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. would carry on her battle for universal health care, economic growth through green jobs and renewed American prestige abroad.

She argued passionately that the Democratic ticket was a better alternative to Republican John McCain.

“You haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership. No way, no how, no McCain,” the first lady implored after being welcomed to the stage by her daughter Chelsea and an adoring, roaring crowd waving signs with her name on it.

“Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president,” she said.

As her husband, former president Bill Clinton watched from a convention center box, Mrs. Clinton declared “It is time to take back the country. … We are on the same team and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines. The time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.”

Mr. Obama, watching the speech from the campaign trail in Montana, said his onetime rival was “outstanding.” He spoke with both Clintons on the phone to thank her for the speech.

Democrats also used the second night of their nominating convention to propel Virginia - normally an afterthought at Democratic conventions past - to the foreground of the fall election with a keynote address by former governor and current Senate candidate Mark Warner, a centrist Democrat with a proven record of winning in the South and a businessman’s pragmatism on politics.

“The race for the future is on, and it won’t be won if only some Americans are in the running,” Mr. Warner said, using themes he’s pushed on the trail for years. “It won’t be won with yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s divisions. And it won’t be won with a president who’s stuck in the past.”

Also showcased was prolife Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, an early Obama supporter.

“Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I’m speaking here is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him,” he said.

After Monday’s warm tribute to the ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and a deeply personal speech from Michelle Obama about her husband and family, the tone on Day Two turned notably harsher.

With Mr. McCain aggressively wooing the blue-collar workers and women who supported Mrs. Clinton, the former first lady took the lead in attacking the Republican ticket as wrong for the country and a misguided continuation of George W. Bush’s policies.

Mrs. Clinton said Mr. McCain is her friend, “But we don’t need four more years of the last eight years … With an agenda like that, it makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities. Because these days they’re awfully hard to tell apart.”

Within minutes of the end of her speech, Mr. McCain’s campaign had responded.

“Senator Clinton ran her presidential campaign making clear that Barack Obama is not prepared to lead as commander in chief. Nowhere tonight did she alter that assessment. Nowhere tonight did she say that Barack Obama is ready to lead,” spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

Speaker after speaker on Tuesday night leveled withering attacks against Mr. McCain and his positions in an orchestrated effort to portray him as a wealthy Republican elitist detached from average Americans and determined to carry on in the footsteps of President Bush.

“The only thing green in John McCain’s energy plans are the billions in tax breaks he’ll be giving to oil companies,” Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said. “The only thing he’ll recycle is George Bush’s failed energy policy.”

Mr. Casey added his dig as well: “John McCain calls himself a maverick, but he votes with George Bush 90 percent of the time. That’s not a maverick, that’s a sidekick.”

Delegates waved red signs blaring, “McCain: More of the same,” and booed as speakers rattled off the Republican’s voting record.

Mr. Clinton, who follows his wife by speaking Wednesday night, arrived in Denver and gave a short speech that made no mention of his past criticisms of Mr. Obama but which cast some doubt on the certainty of a fall victory

He said: “Suppose for example you’re a voter. And you’ve got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don’t think that person can deliver on anything. Candidate Y disagrees with you on half the issues, but you believe that on the other half, the candidate will be able to deliver. For whom would you vote?”

Republicans, meanwhile, crashed the Democratic celebration. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in the running to be Mr. McCain’s running mate, led a GOP delegation to Denver and played the role of attack dog. “Barack Obama is a charming and fine person with a lovely family but he’s not ready to be president,” Mr. Romney argued.

Back at the convention hall, the finishing touches on Mr. Obama’s nomination process were put in place.

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, learned he will formally place the Illinois senator’s name in for the nomination Wednesday night. That will follow the official nomination roll call of each state delegation, one that is expected to be cut short by Mrs. Clinton herself.

Many Clinton fund-raisers remain cool to Mr. Obama’s candidacy, raising fears they might sit on the sidelines or even gravitate to Mr. McCain. But some on the floor Tuesday night seemed satisified to have heard a last word from the former first lady.

“She’s a wonderful leader and has a great future ahead of her,” said Rebecca Gladstone, a delegate from Oregon who used to be a Clinton supporter but has embraced Mr. Obama’s candidacy.

She told delegates and the national audience, amid hundreds of camera flashes, that her campaign was about her deep desire to “renew the promise of America.”

She mentioned her key campaign promises of rebuilding the middle class and helping families save for college, a home and retirement, along with “green collar jobs” to fight global warming.

But her passion on the campaign trail and Tuesday was focused on health care that should be “universal, high quality and affordable.”

“Those are the reason I ran for president. Those are the reason I support Barack Obama,” she said. “And those are the reasons you should too.”

“Together we made history,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Convention officials were telling people it was so crowded the fire marshalls would not allow anyone else in to the bowl or floor.

Mrs. Clinton, who received several minutes of solid, standing ovation, paid tribute to the people she met along the way on the campaign trail.

She thanked her female supporters, calling them “my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.”

One of the loudest applause lines was when she said she was “a proud supporter of Barack Obama,” and aides passed out bright blue signs reading “Unity.”

The speech, which quoted Harriet Tubman’s “Keep going,” was tough and tender at the same time.

“You taught me so much, you made me laugh, and you even made me cry,” she said, a reference to her tears in a New Hampshire diner before the primary.

“Before we can keep going we’ve got to get going by electing Barack Obama,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton said Mrs. Obama will be “a great first lady for America,” and outlined her former rivals campaign promises.

The Clinton speech also fell on the 88th anniversary of the 19th amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote, a symbolic date that many Clinton supporters are using to justify the roll call vote despite Republicans eager to exploit party divisions.

Mrs. Clinton used the attack theme to rally her own backers to Mr. Obama, hoping to head off any overtures from Republicans this fall.

But Mrs. Clinton did not wither from her blistering attack, saying in an earlier speech to women activists that Mr. McCain “still doesn’t believe women deserve equal pay for equal work,” an issue that was to be showcased Tuesday night on the convention stage.

“He doesn’t believe that women deserve the right to choose,” Mrs. Clinton said. “He would turn the clock back. … The choice facing women in this election could not be clearer, the stakes could not be higher.”

She got loud applause from the Emily’s List gala when urging everyone who supported her candidacy to “work as hard for Barack Obama as you did for me in the next months.”

“Let’s go make it happen,” she said.

For her evening speech, she was introduced by a biographical video created by the same Hollywood team - Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason - that did the “Man from Hope” series of videos for her husband’s nomination at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Daughter Chelsea Clinton introduced her mom, a role with which she became comfortable in this campaign.

Mrs. Clinton also paid tribute of her own to two friends recently struck by tragedy - Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney was shot and killed this month, just before Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio died from a sudden seizure.

Anne Price-Mills, a Washington state delegate, wept through the entire Clinton speech.

“She would have made a great president,” she said, wiping away tears. “She did it as beautifully as she always has, she reached the people she needed to reach.”

All day, delegates signed petitions so the Clinton roll call vote will be formal and on the convention floor, not held in an off-site hotel.

Donna Brazile, D.C. superdelegate and former campaign chairman for Al Gore, led the charge.

“I did that in honor of Shirley Chisholm,” the first woman to get a roll call vote at a convention, she said, her eyes glistening, paying tribute to other female trailblazers and the late Mrs. Tubbs Jones.

“I did it because Barack Obama understands that a united Democratic Party is a victorious Democratic Party in 2008,” she said. “We will one day put a woman in the White House. Oh, yes we can.”

She received a standing ovation when pushing the convention’s unity theme: “Let’s celebrate Hillary Clinton, and in November, let’s elect Barack Obama.”

But not every woman in the room was on board.

Ellen Malcolm of Emily’s List told amembers of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, “I was such a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton, but I’ve got to tell you, right now, I’m fired up to elect Barack Obama president.”

But over the cheers and tambourines, a few boos could be heard from the back.

During the caucus, two women wearing Hillary shirts were overheard heatedly using the word “Rezko,” a reference to convicted Chicago real estate developer Tony Rezko, who has ties to Mr. Obama.

Clinton supporters voting for Mr. McCain led protests in downtown Denver. A man and woman with a megaphone shouted at delegates on the streets while riding through town standing in the sunroof of a Hummer that was painted with Obama insults.

“Yes, we con,” the SUV displayed. “Obama’s a fake.”

Delegates who disagreed shouted “Why, why?” at the car.

Some protesters held “Nobama” signs and claimed 3 million members, but there was little evidence the group has much strength.

Suzette Young, a lifelong Democrat from Everett, Wash., said she will vote for Mr. McCain and there’s nothing Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton can say to change her mind.

“I’m that angry,” she said, adding she’d come to the DNC “to support Hillary.”

Mr. Obama “doesn’t have any experience,” she said. “He’s great at reading a teleprompter but when it comes to one-on-one debate it’s blah, blah, blah. McCain will kill him.”

But Sen. Barbara Mikulski said women fighting for equal rights “stood together,” and the same philosophy applies for the Nov. 4 election.

“That’s the way we need to be now, shoulder to shoulder,” she said. “We’ve got to feel riled up, revved up and ready to go.”

Despite the repeated calls for unity, several delegates said they were worried about recent polls showing about one-third of Clinton supporters refuse to support Mr. Obama.

Keenly aware of the challenge, members of the Women’s Caucus on Tuesday attempted to refocus the Obama-McCain race on abortion, saying the primary wounds must heal to prevent Mr. McCain from winning the White House.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the late Texas governor and icon Ann Richards, showed a Planned Parenthood ad mocking Mr. McCain for not having an answer to a question about whether it is “unfair” that some insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control.

In the ad, Mr. McCain told a reporter, “I don’t know,” when asked about the issue.

“I’m here to say that where women’s health care is concerned, what he really means is, ‘I don’t care,’” Ms. Richards said. “My mother would have said that women voting for John McCain would have been like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.”

Mr. Biden, who formally accepts his vice presidential nomination with a keynote speech Wednesday, spoke to his home state of Delaware delegates, and admitted his talkative nature has sometimes been a problem.

“It’s all out there in the clear public view,” he said. “My private life has been lived in the public arena because y’all got me started so young.”

He wiped away tears while thanking his friends and family, saying: “The only reason I came by is to tell you that I love you.”

During the Women’s Caucus earlier, hundreds of women shook bright-colored tambourines in honor of the “first serious female contender for the White House,” with key women leaders saying her bid opened doors for women everywhere.

“Just think, less than a century ago we didn’t even have the right to vote,” said Andrea Wong, CEO of Lifetime Networks.

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