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Obama's challenge: What role for the Clintons?

A roll-call vote for Hillary Clinton at the convention would be 'cathartic,' she says. Then there's Bill.

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Under convention rules, Clinton must make a written request to have her name placed in nomination. She has put out ambiguous signals as to whether she would do that. A videotape posted on YouTube shows her addressing supporters in California two weeks ago and talking about the need for a "catharsis."

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"I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard," Clinton said. "I think that is a very big part of how we actually come out unified, because I know from just what I'm hearing that there's an incredible pent-up desire and I think that people want to feel like, okay, it's a catharsis, we're here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Senator Obama."

Obama appeared cool to the idea of a roll-call vote for Clinton in remarks to reporters on his campaign plane. "I don't think we're looking for catharsis," he said, but added he's leaving the details to the two campaign's teams.

On Friday, as Obama left for a vacation in Hawaii, Clinton appeared as an Obama surrogate at a campaign event in suburban Las Vegas – her first appearance on behalf of her former rival since their joint appearance in June. "Anyone who voted for me or caucused for me has so much more in common with Senator Obama than [with] Senator McCain," she said.

But forces beyond the two campaigns are also at play in the Clinton-Obama drama. The city of Denver has issued a parade permit to a group called Colorado Women Count/Women Vote for Aug. 26 – the day of Hillary Clinton's speech and the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage. The group plans to march through Denver to show appreciation for Clinton's campaign effort and to urge a roll-call vote on her nomination. Another group, 18 Million Voices, is planning a pro-Clinton rally in Denver as well.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is planning a feminist gathering – "Women's Equali-tea" – on the first day of the convention to celebrate Women's Equality Day. The guest list features a long line of feminist leaders and women members of Congress. Obama's wife, Michelle, has been invited but has not responded yet. NOW endorsed Clinton early in the campaign, and is still deciding whether to endorse Obama.

NOW president Kim Gandy does not expect a decision before the convention and she endorses the idea of having Clinton's name placed in nomination. "I think it makes it easier for [Clinton backers] to support the Democratic nominee," she says.