- Barack Obama - USA
DENVER - Democrats opened their national convention on Monday
and a rift involving Hillary Clinton's resentful supporters threatened
to rain on presidential hopeful Barack Obama's nominating parade.
Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean pounded a gavel to
open the four-day convention that Democrats say Obama must use
to unite the party, draw a sharp contrast with Republican rival
John McCain and back up soaring oratory with a policy for
leading the country.
Obama tried to assuage anxiety among some Democrats about a
mild slide in opinion polls that has left him in a dead heat
with McCain heading toward the Nov. 4 election.
He said his nomination acceptance speech on Thursday would
be "workmanlike," short on lofty words and long on policy
He also played down divisions with the former president and
"I am absolutely convinced that both Hillary Clinton and
Bill Clinton understand the stakes," he told reporters in
The day's agenda was focused on outlining Obama's personal
story. In excerpts from her evening keynote speech, Obama's
wife, Michelle Obama, seemed to want to dispel Republican
criticism of Obama as an aloof celebrity.
"And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19
months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in
love with 19 years ago," she said.
Michelle Obama also tried to cast her own personality in a
"I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he
will be an extraordinary president. I come here as a mom whose
girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world,"
Democrats hoped a tribute to Massachusetts Sen. Edward
Kennedy, a symbol of Democratic liberalism who is battling
brain cancer, would bring the party together. An aide to
Kennedy said the senator would attend but not speak.
Casting a cloud over the convention was ongoing resentment
from supporters of New York Sen. Clinton, miffed that she lost
the nomination and upset that she was not picked as Obama's
vice presidential running mate. Obama chose veteran Delaware
Sen. Joe Biden, who arrived at the convention on Monday.
Clinton, speaking to sign-waving supporters from her home
state delegation before the convention began, urged party
"We are after all Democrats, so it may take a while," she
said. "We're not the fall-in-line party. We are diverse. But
make no mistake, we are unified," she said.
IN AGREEMENT ON SPEECHES
Negotiators from the Clinton and Obama camps came up with a
plan to placate Clinton supporters by allowing three speeches
on behalf of a symbolic nomination for Clinton before the floor
turns to nominating Obama as the Democratic candidate.
Amid reports that former President Bill Clinton was upset
that he was asked to speak about foreign policy on Wednesday
night instead of the U.S. economy, Obama told reporters
traveling with him that he had told Clinton in a phone
conversation last week he could talk about whatever he wanted.
"I said, Mr. President, you can say whatever you like. Bill
Clinton is a unique figure in our politics," Obama said.
A new opinion poll showed how much work lay ahead to rally
Clinton supporters behind him. The CNN/Opinion Research Corp.
poll said the race between Obama and McCain was even, each with
47 percent support.
It said 66 percent of Clinton supporters backed Obama, down
from 75 percent at the end of June. Twenty-seven percent of
them said they would support McCain in the Nov. 4 election, up
from 16 percent in late June.
On the convention floor, Eufaula Frazier, a retired school
teacher and a Democratic delegate from Florida, wore her
"Hillary for president" campaign button but said she is ready
to vote for Obama.
"There may be a few of us who go for McCain, but most of us
understand we need to kick Republicans out of the White House,"
Republicans who established a "war room" in Denver sought
to sow discord by staging a news conference with a former
Clinton backer who now backs McCain.
The McCain campaign has sought to exploit the Democratic
divide. Senior McCain aide Carly Fiorina said disgruntled women
supporters of Hillary Clinton "want a leader whose judgment and
experience they can trust."