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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Clinton to get moment in the convention sun

In a bid for party unity, she'll get a roll-call vote and address delegates.

August 15, 2008|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A Democratic National Convention that is supposed to showcase Barack Obama will devote a considerable amount of time to Hillary Rodham Clinton and her family, with the two campaigns announcing an agreement Thursday to formally enter her name into nomination.

The development means that during the state-by-state vote on a nominee for president, delegates will have the option of choosing Clinton rather than Obama -- giving supporters a chance to cheer her candidacy one last time.

Barring an unforeseen collapse on Obama's part, Clinton won't win; Obama wound up with 136 more delegates than needed to clinch the nomination, and there are no signs of any defections.

But the purpose of the exercise is to resolve a nagging political problem for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party. Since Obama locked down the nomination in June, some Clinton loyalists have been slow to embrace his candidacy. The two campaigns believe that by setting aside time to acknowledge Clinton, the party stands a better chance of avoiding a fractious scene on the convention floor and of emerging from the convention united.

Aides to Clinton and Obama said the two sides had been working cooperatively and were both satisfied with the arrangement.

"With every voice heard and the party strongly united, we will elect Sen. Obama president of the United States," Clinton said in a statement released by the two campaigns.

Clinton had pointed to the restiveness of her supporters in an appearance at a private home last month, saying they needed "a catharsis" before falling in line behind Obama. A video of Clinton's remarks was posted on YouTube.

Now that the four-day convention schedule is taking shape, it is clear that the Clinton family will have a prominent role.

If past practice holds, Clinton will be the focus of nominating and seconding speeches by people she designates before the roll-call vote.

Clinton herself will address the delegates in prime time on the second night of the convention, Tuesday, Aug. 26. Her husband, former President Clinton, will speak the following night. Discussions are also taking place about whether daughter Chelsea Clinton will get a speaking slot.

Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a public policy research center at Stanford University, said: "Obama's people know that they have not closed the deal with Hillary voters the way they would like, and they just can't afford to do anything -- real or perceived -- that upsets Mrs. Clinton and her followers. So they have more than bent over to accommodate her."

The Clinton family's role at the convention has been the subject of prolonged negotiations with the Obama campaign. Two prominent lawyers have been representing the Clintons' interests -- Robert B. Barnett and Cheryl Mills, a White House counsel in Bill Clinton's administration.

Some aides to Hillary Clinton said she had been unsure about the wisdom of putting her name into nomination. While the convention can offer a coveted place in the national spotlight, Clinton risks appearing politically weak if many of the delegates she won during the primaries and caucuses split off and vote instead for Obama, either in the name of party unity or because they want to side with the winner.

Asked how Clinton herself would vote, campaign aides noted that she had endorsed Obama and campaigned for him, and they strongly indicated that she would vote for him.

At the same time, Clinton has voiced worries about a poor showing in private conversations with staff, as have some of her advisors, one former aide said.

"You do worry, and I think that was something that concerned her as well," said the former aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to be candid. "What is the turnout going to be? Is anyone coming to my party?"

But Clinton loyalists said they were pleased to know that she would be recognized in such fashion.

Larry Scanlon, political director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said: "She sought to be the first woman nominated for president. She came up a little short, but she made it easier for the next female candidate to get the brass ring. Many in the Democratic Party would like to celebrate that. I think that they should celebrate that."

Recent conventions have been scripted affairs, with all four days devoted to showcasing the nominee, among them John F. Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. But there have been many instances in which unsuccessful primary challengers have had their names placed into nomination.

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown's name was entered into nomination in 1992, after he lost in the primaries and caucuses to Bill Clinton.

And both the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart had their names entered into nomination in 1984, after losing to Walter F. Mondale.

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peter.nicholas@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

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