All Eyes On Clinton Ahead Of Denver Speech

Hillary Clinton speaks Tuesday at the Democratic Party convention in Denver. The battle for the Democratic presidential nomination was one of the longest in history. The world will watch to see how unequivocal Clinton's support for Obama appears.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

At the Democratic Convention in Denver today, about six hours of speakers. They range from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, to an unemployed North Carolina textile worker, to keynote speaker Mark Warner. He is the former governor of Virginia, and he's a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

BLOCK: The most widespread anticipation is for the final major speech of the night from Senator Hillary Clinton. She won 18 million votes in the long and contentious primary race against Barack Obama. And many questions remain about what she will say tonight to supporters who still believe she should be accepting the Democratic presidential nomination this week.

SIEGEL: Our colleague, Michele Norris, is in Denver, at the convention. And she joins us now from the Pepsi Center. Hi, Michele.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Hello, Robert. Good to talk to you.

SIEGEL: Good to talk with you. And I'd like to hear from you first about the much-reported tension between the Obama and Clinton camps. Is it real? How much tension is there between…

NORRIS: It is real. This is a convention that is as much about repair as it is about rallying the troops. You can feel that tension. You can hear that tension. You can see that tension on the convention floor, with Hillary Clinton supporters who are showing up with their Hillary Clinton buttons and their Hillary Clinton badges and their Hillary Clinton shirts, even though in some cases, their delegations ask them not to do that.

There's clear tensions between the two camps that are still working out details about what Hillary Clinton will say when she takes the stage, about what message she will deliver to her voters, still tensions about how they're going to work out the roll call vote later in the convention.

And this is something that - it's a real heartburn for the Obama campaign because they need both Hillary Clinton supporters, particularly those women voters that they still having a very hard time reaching. And it's a concern, to some degree, to Hillary Clinton. And when you talk to people in her camp, they note that this could affect her legacy, her standing on Capitol Hill, if it appears in any way that she somehow sullied the party here at the convention.

SIEGEL: So - and the questions surrounding, say, the roll call, that's not for tonight, that would be for tomorrow night. The issue is whether Clinton delegates would all vote for Hillary Clinton, or whether what kind of speeches would be made on behalf of Hillary Clinton. What sorts of things are they dealing with here?

NORRIS: There are several things that they're working out. One of the questions is how the roll call would take place, whether her name would be entered into nomination, and whether people from a certain number of states would be allowed to vote for her, and then the question of whether it would continue and all the states would be able to cast their ballots, or whether someone - perhaps even Hillary Clinton - would cut off the voting and then Barack Obama would take the nomination by acclamation.

So there are a lot of these little details that are still being worked out, details about whether or not she would deliver a specific message to her voters, telling them that they should cast a ballot for Barack Obama, whether she would tell them to follow their hearts.

It's really amazing that they're still involved in these deep and fractious negotiations. Here at the convention, you would assume, particularly for a campaign that's been known for its discipline, that these are things that would have been worked out days, if not weeks ago.

SIEGEL: Well, tonight's other big event before Hillary Clinton's speech to the convention will be a keynote given by Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia, now a candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. You had a chance to talk with him, I gather, today. What does he say about this big moment?

NORRIS: He says he has a hard act to follow. He notes that Barack Obama delivered the keynote address four years ago and it wound up launching his political career. And he knows that, you know, keynote addresses, some are forgotten, some are quite memorable. He hopes to be in the latter category. But he knows it's going to be tough to meet the very high bar that Barack Obama set.

He said he's going to be talking about what he did in Virginia as governor, turning around the economy, and what he did to reach out to constituencies in Virginia that were firmly in the Republican camp, and how he reached across the aisle and really broadened the reach in the party. And he's going to be talking about how the Obama campaign could perhaps do the same thing.

SIEGEL: Okay. Michele, thanks a lot. Enjoy the convention.

NORRIS: I am enjoying it. Good to talk to you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Okay. Michele Norris, who is at the Pepsi Center in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.

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Hillary Clinton's Long Goodbye

Hillary Clinton's speech Tuesday will set a tone for party unity — or disunity. i

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Hillary Clinton said, "We are united and we are together and we are determined." Her speech Tuesday will set a tone for party unity — or disunity. Max Whittaker/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Max Whittaker/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton's speech Tuesday will set a tone for party unity — or disunity.

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Hillary Clinton said, "We are united and we are together and we are determined." Her speech Tuesday will set a tone for party unity — or disunity.

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

When Hillary Clinton strikes her first podium pose Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, she'll do so knowing that almost half of the people staring at her wanted her to be the party's presidential nominee. And somewhat more than half preferred Barack Obama.

How she speaks to both groups will set a tone for unity, or disunity, as the party points toward the November election.

Ever since it became obvious that Hillary Clinton did not have enough delegates to be nominated, Democrats have been wondering if she would throw her full support behind Obama. So far, she — and her husband, former President Bill Clinton — have sent enough wavy signals that their support for Obama has been questioned.

Her protracted concession brings to mind a similar primary battle in 1980 between incumbent President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Carter got more delegates, but Kennedy ignored the inevitable right up until the convention. He finally conceded several days before they appeared together at New York's Madison Square Garden. Kennedy was visibly ambivalent about the nominee.

The Republicans capitalized on the divided Democrats, and Ronald Reagan easily won the election.

Spreading Unity To The Campaign?

This time around, Clinton conceded defeat in June. When the two Democratic rivals appeared in the carefully chosen town of Unity, N.H., she told her supporters that they should vote for Obama rather than Republican opponent John McCain. But she has still not released her delegates, and her campaign lobbied to have her name placed in nomination.

Obama closed the door on her White House hopes this year by selecting Joe Biden as his vice presidential candidate. Still, some of her supporters keep on hanging on.

Connie Kafka, for instance, has come to Denver from Wyoming to cheer on the runner-up. Clinton, she says, "has been under incredible pressure" from the party's national committee to support Obama. After all, she adds, "Hillary won the popular vote" — though that's only true if some caucus states Obama won are not counted and disputed primaries are.

According to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, 30 percent of Clinton supporters nationwide do not plan to vote for Obama.

Raining On Obama's Parade

In Denver, the die-hards wear T-shirts that read, "Only Hillary Gets My Vote." They are fueled by Web sites such as Puma PAC and Just Say No Deal. They plan to stage several pro-Clinton events, including a candlelight vigil and march.

On a recent evening, a klatch of the Clinton faithful met at the snazzy Fuel Cafe on the outskirts of downtown Denver. All in all, there were more than 50 people snacking on hors d'oeuvres and drinking from the bar.

"Obama is unelectable," said Kafka, who has been voting for Democrats since she registered 38 years ago. "There is no way I will vote for any ticket with Obama's name on it. I will vote for John McCain instead."

She is still hoping for a miracle. "My dream scenario," she said, "is that every delegate would stand up for her and she will be the nominee."

Carol Anderson of Vancouver, Wash., is another never-say-die Clintonite. Obama, she says, suffers from hubris. His plan to deliver his acceptance speech at the 70,000-plus seat Invesco Field "is so ostentatious. He's so arrogant."

She is hoping for bad weather. "I wouldn't mind if it rained on his parade," she said.

Clinton Expresses Determination

Monday morning, Clinton spoke to the New York state delegation at a breakfast in Denver. She urged her followers to move forward. "We were not all on the same side as Democrats, but we are now," she said. "We are united and we are together and we are determined."

Clinton spokesperson Kathleen Strand told The Associated Press that the New York senator's "support of Barack Obama is clear. She has said repeatedly that Barack Obama and she share a commitment to changing the direction of the country, getting us out of Iraq and expanding access to health care."

The delegates committed to Clinton will meet with the candidate at a reception Wednesday, where she is likely to release them, the AP reports. And Obama's campaign played down the idea that Clinton's supporters are divisive. Obama, meanwhile, is on his way to Denver, making stops in battleground states along the way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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