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Delegates cheer while watching former President Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Wednesday.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
DENVER — On the third night of the Democratic National Convention, the Clinton-Obama psychodrama finally seemed complete.
Both Clintons had given ringing endorsements of the presidential ticket. Hillary Clinton had told her delegates she was voting for Barack Obama, the man she had tried so hard and long to defeat. And she had done still more.
When the official roll call reached the state of New York with Obama leading in the tally by 4-1, Sen. Clinton did what other runners-up have done in the past. She moved to make Obama the nominee by acclamation.
That triggered a roar unlike any the Pepsi Center had heard all week, and it left just one more hurdle to be cleared in this long-running steeplechase. That hurdle was former President Bill Clinton, who had seemed to be sulking in his tent like Achilles since Obama wrapped up the nomination on June 3.
No one seemed certain about what the former president might say, and that seemed to explain why he was not speaking in the ultraprime network hour of 10 p.m. ET. But in the end, despite all doubts, he emerged on stage and delivered a stirring argument for the election of Obama, the man he had shown so little patience for earlier in the year.
To be sure, somewhere in the shadows of the Pepsi Center there were still Clinton delegates holding out or holding their noses. But they had been reduced to a remnant, too small to have much effect on the mood of the convention or the outcome in November.
In the VIP lounges of the Ritz Carlton hotel and the Denver airport, there were major Clinton fundraising figures all fleeing the convention city early. Their hopes were dashed and their egos bruised. Feeling they had been insufficiently stroked, they were leaving in protest.
There are real issues separating the funders in both camps. Clinton supporters have sent $14 million to Obama since the end of the primaries. Obama supporters have ponied up less than $500,000 to ease the debts of the Clinton campaign. That may be because the Clinton debt is owed largely to the candidate and her husband and their controversial strategist, Mark Penn. But whatever the reason, the lack of a quid pro quo has cooled the ardor of Clinton funders who feel they are not being met halfway.
These givers and bundlers may not be back this fall, and that could blow a major hole in the Obama campaign's fundraising and spending plans. But at the same time, their departure is not the sort of thing that genuinely ruins a convention. It was noted here and there, but it detracted not at all from the enthusiasm of the delegates or those watching at home on TV, and it attracted relatively little media notice.
The smoothness with which the anger and animosity of the spring have been subsumed here deserves mention.
It helped that the Clintons had no apparent objection to the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as the running mate. They clearly would have preferred to have this honor offered to Hillary Clinton. But lacking that breakthrough to the executive branch, they seemed resigned to making the most of a seat in the Senate. For the moment.
The rest of the midweek session was largely a matter of big screen stamp collecting. Sen. John Kerry gave a self-mocking speech about his failed effort to dislodge President George W. Bush four years earlier. A procession of Democratic candidates for the Senate plowed familiar ground. Several candidates who had been on Obama's running-mate short list demonstrated both the reasons for their listing and, to some degree, the reasons they lost out to Biden.
The new No. 2 himself gave the longest speech of the evening, hitting most of the notes one would have expected. Biden talked of his humble roots in Scranton, Pa., and of the loss of his wife and daughter when he was barely 30. One of his sons, Beau Biden, talked warmly of their family life, making scant mention of his own political career or his deployment to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard this fall. It's safe to say his presence there will be noted again before November.
In a few days, the deluge of Democrats will have subsided, and the rush of Republicans will have begun.