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Clinton, Obama working on roll call deal

A deal between the two former rival candidates could give her some votes in the presidential nomination roll call, but end the divided balloting quickly with a unanimous consent for Obama.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama worked out a convention city deal to give her some votes in the Democratic roll call for president, a step toward an uneasy alliance of former rivals and their still-bitter supporters.

Many Clinton backers said Monday they were not interested in compromise and wanted a prime-time celebration of Clinton's nomination. Clinton herself said she wouldn't tell her backers how to vote.

Still, she told supporters she would cast her own vote for Obama and said, "We were not all on the same side as Democrats, but we are now."

Democratic officials involved in the negotiations said Monday the plan calls for a state-by-state vote for the presidential nomination Wednesday night, with delegates casting their ballots for Clinton or Obama.

But the voting would be cut off after several states, the officials said, perhaps ending with New York, when Clinton herself would call for unanimous nomination of Obama by acclamation from the convention floor. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity while the deal was being finalized.

It was not clear whether there would be floor demonstrations for Clinton after her name was placed in nomination, a spectacle that could detract from Obama's political coronation.

Obama won 365 more delegates than Clinton in a hotly contested primary battle. Clinton ended her campaign weeks ago and urged her supporters to back Obama, but many haven't accepted that message.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, said the animosity that some Clinton delegates feel toward Obama "is getting worse."

Townsend, a Maryland delegate, was a strong Clinton supporter but now is fully behind Obama. She said she partly understands why some of her colleagues have not joined her yet.

"There's a moment that you want to enjoy your bitterness," she said.

Clinton said she has told her delegates she will vote for Obama, but she would not instruct them how to vote. Many of those delegates, she told reporters Monday, will probably vote for him. Others, she said, "feel an obligation to the people who sent them here that they were elected to represent."

Mary Boergers, a Maryland delegate, scoffed at the notion that suppressing the Clinton roll call would help show solidarity behind Obama.

"To try to suppress the celebration that we all want to have about her achievements is what would tear this party apart," she said.

Worried about that exact scenario, the Obama and Clinton teams have held tense negotiations over how the convention will unfold. One possible compromise: The New York senator will be the headliner Tuesday night. Her husband, former President Clinton, will speak Wednesday — part of her request that he be on a separate night, negotiators said.

The dealmaking indicates the divided nature of the party — Obama does not have full control over a convention that includes many delegates who are enthusiastic Clinton supporters. But both senators have an incentive to help make peace between their opposing sides — Obama so he'll have their backing in November and Clinton so she'll be well positioned for a future run.

A full roll call vote would not be beneficial to either side. Obama doesn't want the distraction of a long divided scene. His campaign has printed up signs that say "Unity" to distribute to delegates and has scheduled just an hour for voting.

A full roll call could also prove embarrassing to Clinton, since many of her delegates could decide to vote for their party's nominee-in-waiting.

The split pales in comparison to past political convention battles like the 1980 fight between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. President Carter beat him in the primaries, but Kennedy supporters tried to take away the nomination at the New York convention. Kennedy didn't have the votes for the nomination, and at the convention finale he shunned the hugs and clasped hands that are customary at adjournment. Carter kept trying, almost chasing him around the stage.

Clinton said part of her job at the convention will be letting her delegates know "that however they decide to vote, we will all be united behind Senator Obama."

While her associates crafted a deal behind the scenes to dampen pro-Clinton floor demonstrations, some of her supporters were not interested in compromise.

"I don't care what she says," Boergers said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is chairwoman of the convention, acknowledged Monday that Democrats are not yet united following the bitter primary fight. She said a "gender gap" in Obama's favor had emerged "even before the convention, and even before the complete reconciliation that we need," she said.

"But to stay wallowing in all of this is not productive," she said. "So we can talk about this forever, or we can talk about how we're going to take our message to the American people, to women all across America, to see the distinctions" between Obama and Republican candidate John McCain.