(Asked for a response, Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “At the Democratic convention, we will ensure that the voices of everyone who participated in this historic process are respected and our party will be fully unified heading into the November election.”)
Long-term, the fringe groups are talking about purging the Democratic Party of Obama supporters or even starting their own third party. Short-term, they are focused on ruining the convention.
“Hi everybody. I hope that the Denver convention will be turned into the American equivalent of Tiananmen Square,” wrote a commenter named “johninca” on a Web site announcing PUMA’s 2008 “convention” in Washington.
In an interview, Darragh Murphy, the founder of PUMAPac, called the meeting crucial to counteract Mr. Obama’s aggressive and prolific online supporters.
“I started saying this was more than my candidate versus your candidate,” she said. “We need to become a movement, too.”
Murphy filed papers with the F.C.C. to start PUMAPac on June 3 and claims it has since grown to 10,000 members and has raised $50,000. The PAC is funding a loft for bloggers in Denver, organizing delegate outreach and financing an anti-Obama movie, The Audacity of Democracy.
Ms. Murphy, a mother of three who lives outside Boston, believes that the only way to save the Democratic Party at this point is to destroy it. Mr. Obama must lose, and his supporters must be purged.
She said that Obama supporters have harassed her and her followers by banging on their windows with pots and pans in the middle of the night, making phone threats and leaving dead rabbits on their doorsteps.
“If this guy wins, that style of campaigning will become the de facto method,” said Ms. Murphy.
(On mybarackobama.com, one blogger accused Ms. Murphy, who voted for Mr. McCain in the 2000 Massachusetts primary, of being a McCain plant and called her a “Republican Astro-Turfer.” She denies being a plant.)
At the D.C. meeting with Ms. Murphy was Will Bower, the founder of PUMA08. A former administrator of Hillary Clinton’s Facebook group, “Hillary Clinton for President; One Million Strong,” he participated in the conference call on the night Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign. That original 5 p.m. strategy call has now become a weekly event dubbed the “puma prowl,” during which rank and file members get their marching orders about what DNC switchboard to paralyze by mass-calling or which superdelegates to bombard with e-mail.
Superdelegates, of course, became irrelevant to the national political discourse the day Mrs. Clinton dropped out of the race. But for the most committed Clinton loyalists, they are still seen as the key to victory. And no one is as focused on lobbying them as Ricki Lieberman.
A former Hillraiser—a Clinton bundler who has raised at least $100,000—Ms. Lieberman, 61, drafts her “Electability Watch” newsletter every night in a cavernous apartment on Manhattan’s West End Avenue, which has played host to Governor David Paterson among other New York officials.
Part pep talk, part clip job, part poll update and part superdelegate call list, the “EW,” as it is known, is blasted out to hundreds of the Clinton supporters nightly. An Aug. 6 edition began, “This evening at a ‘thank you, Hillraisers’ event, Senator Clinton told me how honored she is by the people who are working to have her name put into nomination and appreciative of those signing the petition.”
On Aug. 7, Ms. Lieberman sat in a dining room decorated with menorahs and family photos, shooing her cat away from a bowl of cherries in the middle of the table. She wore a blue shirt with large orange beads and explained how she provides each recipient with the names and numbers of 18 superdelegates (symbolizing, she said, the 18 million voters who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primaries).
“It takes me an enormous amount of time,” she said.
Ms. Lieberman, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who has served as campaign treasurer for Representative Jerry Nadler, thinks she is helping the party by vetting Mr. Obama. She dismissed Mrs. Clinton’s calls for her followers to get behind Mr. Obama as a “mixed message” and lit up when the subject of a video of Mrs. Clinton speaking at a San Francisco fund-raiser came up.
In the video, Mrs. Clinton appeared to agree with the suggestion that her name be included on a roll call in Denver, to help with the process of emotional “catharsis” for her followers. Like many of the diehard Clinton loyalists fighting to get Mrs. Clinton’s name onto the roll call during the nomination, Ms. Lieberman took the senator’s remarks as a green light to continue.
“I really believe she will be the nominee—I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t,” said Ms. Lieberman, who met Mr. Obama once on the campaign trail. (“He didn’t pay a bit of attention to me,” she said. “He’s tall and looked around for someone more important.”)
When asked if anything, barring Mrs. Clinton’s nomination, would make her happy at the convention, she said, “I’m not sure there’s a happy ending.”
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