updated 7/15/2004 5:45:58 PM ET 2004-07-15T21:45:58

John Kerry has asked Hillary Rodham Clinton to introduce her husband, former President Clinton, on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, giving her a speaking role that Democrats had sought for the New York senator.

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The Kerry campaign unveiled its first set of speakers for the convention early this week, including former Presidents Clinton and Carter, Al Gore and others, but the absence of the former first lady drew criticism from Democrats, particularly women.

The senator herself said she was not disappointed, but a lobbying effort quickly got under way on her behalf.

Kerry, who was campaigning in Pennsylvania, called Clinton and asked her to introduce her husband. She agreed to the request, according to an aide to Kerry.

On Wednesday, the former chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Party had called the slight of Clinton a “total outrage” and “very stupid.”

“It’s a slap in the face, not personally for Hillary Clinton, but for every woman in the Democratic Party and every woman in America,” said Judith Hope.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., expressed disappointment Wednesday with the way the Kerry campaign handled the release of convention speakers, her campaign manager Mike Morrill said.

Mikulski told Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill that the strategy of releasing only a few names each day minimizes the importance of some speakers, Morrill said.

“The senator was very clear that the way they did this botched it,” Morrill said. “By doing it as the One-A-Day vitamin strategy, they missed the picture that they have a whole shop of vitamins.”

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