Hillary Clinton is still sending mixed messages.
Speaking at a press conference this morning following a breakfast with the New York delegation at the Sheraton hotel in Denver, during which called on her supporters to support Barack Obama, she said she would release her delegates to vote for Obama on Wednesday and would vote for Obama herself. But Clinton also argued that her delegates should have the chance to vote for her during Wednesday’s convention roll call.
Clinton spoke for about 15 minutes about the steady process of party unity and all the work she had done to convince her supporters to vote for Obama during the convention and in the election. But when asked by the Observer why so many New York elected officials and delegates, as recently as yesterday afternoon, still expressed confusion about who they should vote for on Wednesday, and whether she shouldn’t have offered clearer and earlier guidance to them, Mrs. Clinton grew more animated.
She said that she would have a formal meeting with her delegates on Wednesday and “at that time I will be releasing them. I will tell them that I intend to vote for Senator Obama. A lot of people are committed to unifying behind Senator Obama, how they vote is a more personal decision, because a lot of them feel like they represent people who sent them there to vote for me. A lot of them feel that, you know, they want to have their chance to vote for me and then we’ll all vote together. That is what traditionally happens. We could go back and have a long history lesson about how this has worked before. I don’t think you would find a more cooperative relationship between two campaigns, at least as far as I can remember, in any kind of contested primary season once we get to the convention. So of course some people are having to make up their minds because there are arguments pulling both ways. Their constituents voted for me but of course [they are] going to do everything they can for Senator Obama. So that’s why I am saying what I am going to do, releasing them and letting them know that however they do decide to vote we will all be united behind Senator Obama once the nomination is finally declared and we leave Denver. And that’s the real goal here. [It] is to make sure that people feel good about their experience in Denver. That they feel like they had a chance to be heard that they did get an opportunity to say what they had to say and what they came to say but then we leave here and we are all behind Senator Obama. And it is so much of a smoother convention. It’s not like anything like a lot of the challenges and the fights and the disagreements … you know, in my experience going back, gosh, a long time. So I would just suggest to you that I know we have 24/7 news cycle to fill but clearly what Maggie Williams and David Axelrod said yesterday about how we’re working together and how we intend to unify our party and elect Senator Obama is exactly what’s going on.”
Also during the press conference, Clinton was asked about concerns that she and her husband were stealing the limelight from the nominee. “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is Barack Obama’s convention as well as it should be,” she said. And when asked what else she could do to convince her most diehard supporters to vote for Obama in November, admitted “I don’t know.”
The press conference followed a breakfast for the New York delegation down the hall in a Sheraton ballroom, which did not have the most auspicious of beginnings.
New York Democratic chairwoman June O’Neill’s question to the packed ballroom — “Are you ready to elect a president?” — met with a grumble. “Come on, this is New York. Are you ready to elect a president?”
The delegates and activists seemed more interested in the free eggs, potatoes, bacon, croissants and muffins. Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver sat with the state’s top officials on a dais and acted as the master of ceremonies (which is something like using a metronome as an alarm clock.) Charlie Rangel wore a cobalt jacket and no tie and said, “We stayed with Hillary right up there to the end.” He added, “We proved loyalty.”
As he sat down, he bumped fists with Senator Chuck Schumer, who spoke next, in a dark blue power suit, and used his projecting convention voice to call New York delegates “the greatest” and say “we are united in one thing — we are going to elect Barack Obama President of the United States.”
Mr. Schumer also said, “And the person who will be leading the charge to do that” — despite the feeling that “uh, things could have been different” — would be Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton will lead all of us in New York and in this country to make sure that Barack Obama” becomes president. He led the dais in a standing ovation for Clinton. A few minutes later Schumer continued his homage to Clinton, talking about her “struggle that broke so many glass ceilings but didn’t quite break one more,” and “assuring” the country that “despite the sexism and despite everything else nothing stops her,” and that “the same motivation to do the right thing” would lead her to “do everything she can” to elect Obama president.
“All of you here in New York played such an instrumental role in my campaign,” said Clinton, wearing a canary yellow pantsuit and speaking from a dais with all of New York’s top elected officials. “And now I ask each and every one of you to work as hard for Barack Obama and Joe Biden as you worked for me.”
Noting recent television advertisements by John McCain’s campaign which attempt to play on the hard feelings of Clinton supporters by suggesting she was essentially passed over by Democrats, Clinton said “The McCain campaign is running ads that are trying to divide us,” and then added for emphasis, “I’m Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.”
Clinton tried to make the case that the cause of defeating McCain and the Republicans trumped any other concern, “Everyone of us could stand up and recite all the reasons we must elect Barack,” she said, listing economic policies and Supreme Court decisions Democrats needed to tackle. “None of that will happen if John McCain is in the White House.”
The response to Clinton’s appeals were mostly tepid, and even while arguing “We are united, we are united for change,” she said that because Democrats were “not the fall-in-line party,” the process “may take a while.”