Clinton speech moves Democrats toward unity, but hasn't clinched it
Her words to the Democratic faithful Tuesday night are a first step, not an end point, toward bringing diehard Clinton fans around to Obama.
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In a prime-time address that capped the second day of the convention, Clinton heaped praise on her most ardent supporters, jokingly calling them "my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits."Skip to next paragraph
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"You never gave in and you never gave up, and together we made history," she said.
She remembered the people who had moved her on the campaign trail – a marine who waited months for medical care, a boy whose mother had just seen her hours cut at her minimum-wage job, a single mother without health insurance who adopted two special-needs children only to learn she had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I want you to ask yourselves, Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young marine and others like him?" she said as the arena erupted in applause. "Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"
Tuesday was the 88th anniversary of the day the 19th Amendment gave women the vote, and Clinton spoke of the long struggle for equality that reached a summit with her candidacy.
She praised Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, and Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., his vice-presidential pick. And despite – or perhaps because of – lingering tensions between Bill Clinton and the Obama campaign over the former president's perceived ill treatment during the primaries, Senator Clinton explicitly linked Obama's priorities with those of her husband's administration.
"When Barack Obama is in the White House, he'll revitalize our economy, defend the working people of America, and meet the global challenges of our time," she said. "As I recall, we did it before, with President Clinton and the Democrats. And if we do our part, we'll do it again with President Obama and the Democrats."
The speech "hit all the high points," says John Pitney Jr., a professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College in California. Still, he says, "you're not going to undo a months-long primary campaign with one speech. But it's a beginning."
How far beyond words her support will go is an open question. Will she release her delegates to Obama before a floor vote on her nomination Wednesday? What will her husband say in his speech Wednesday night? Will the Clintons, their wattage in the party now dimmed, aggressively campaign for Obama?
Senator Clinton's speech comes amid new questions about whether her biggest fundraisers, still embittered about the race, will work for Obama. In addition, Bill Clinton gave some the impression that he was speaking of Obama Tuesday when he voiced concerns about the ability of Democrats to "deliver" on "good intentions."
"This has nothing to do with what's going on now," Clinton insisted in remarks to a group of foreign dignitaries in Denver. "But I am just saying if you look at 5, 10, 15 years from now, you may actually see this delivery issue become a serious issue in Democratic debates because it is so hard to figure out how to turn good intentions into real changes in the lives of the people we represent."