August 26, 2008
(AP) - Democrats bickered among themselves Tuesday about how hard to attack John McCain as the party's former dominant couple - Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton - took center stage at Barack Obama's political coronation.
With strains persisting between Obama and some former Hillary Clinton supporters, Republicans brought out a new ad pointedly invoking her past criticism that Obama wasn't ready to lead.
The next two days give star billing to the old Clinton regime even as the party delivers to Obama its presidential nomination.
Obama's former rival was to urge her disappointed supporters to line up in unity behind him in a prime-time speech Tuesday night. Her husband, former President Clinton, speaks Wednesday night.
McCain's latest TV ad played reprises her primary campaign spot featuring sleeping children and a 3 a.m. phone call portending a crisis. In the new ad Clinton is shown saying: "I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."
A narrator adds: "Hillary's right. John McCain for president."
Some Democratic activists, meanwhile, voiced concern that the convention has yet to produce a sustained attack against the Republican presidential candidate.
In particular, they cited former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's preview of his Tuesday night keynote speech in which he suggested he would not make a red-meat attack on McCain but an appeal for bipartisanship.
"There may be parts of the speech that aren't going to get a lot of applause, but I've got to say what I believe will get our country back on the right path," Warner - who was neutral in the party primaries - told reporters on Monday.
Democratic strategist Paul Begala took issue with Warner's comments, suggesting that more partisanship, not less, was needed at the party convention. "This isn't the Richmond Chamber of Commerce," Begala said Tuesday.
On Monday, James Carville told CNN: "If this party has a message, it's done a hell of a job hiding it tonight, I promise you that."
Both Begala and Carville were top strategists behind Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential bid.
Party chief Howard Dean dismissed such criticism.
"We don't need to attack McCain" during opening events, Dean told delegates from Ohio, a battleground state. "There will be plenty of time for that." It's more important now to introduce the nation to Obama and running mate Joe Biden, Dean said.
"There is not a unity problem," he added. If anyone doubts that, he said, "wait 'til you see Hillary Clinton's speech tonight."
Even so, internal strains remained. Former party chairman Don Fowler, a former Clinton supporter, questioned the attitudes of some Clinton delegates.
"All you need is 200 people in that crowd to boo and stuff like that and it will be replayed 900 times. And that's not what you want out of this," he said in an interview.
Anna Burger, the chair of Change to Win, made up of seven unions, said some Clinton supporters were having a hard time letting go and switching loyalties to Obama. But, she said in an interview with The Associated Press, "the vast majority of them have."
"We have to leave here Friday ready for action," said Burger, a convention speaker Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, McCain is expected to name his running mate in the coming days.
Two prospective contenders were to be in Denver on his behalf to assail Democrats: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday. It amounted to a final audition of sorts.
Biden, in his first public remarks since joining the ticket, confided to home-state Delaware delegates he "didn't always comport myself in the way that I wanted to."
He did not elaborate, but aides said it was mostly a reference to Biden's reputation for long-windedness and off-the-cuff remarks that sometimes backfired. He ended his 1988 presidential run amid allegations of plagiarism. As he began a 2007 run, he called Obama "articulate" and "clean." He also drew criticism for saying "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."
Biden, at times emotional, thanked fellow Delaware Democrats for their tolerance as his large family listened.
Clinton once seemed to have the nomination in her grasp and now is being called on to defend and support the person who wrested it from her. She is effectively playing middlewoman Tuesday night - passing a torch from her husband, the 42nd president, to Obama, who wants to succeed him as the next Democratic president.
But not without some Clinton-style political dealmaking and drama.
The Clinton and Obama camps agreed to limit Wednesday's potentially divisive nominating process for president, allowing some states to cast votes for both Obama and Clinton before ending the roll call in an acclamation for the Illinois senator.
Clinton herself may cut off the voting and urge the unanimous nomination of Obama, according to Democratic officials involved in the negotiations.
But some Clinton delegates said they were not interested in a compromise, raising the prospect of unwelcome floor demonstrations.
Gloria Allred, a California celebrity lawyer and pledged Clinton delegate, briefly disrupted a breakfast meeting of the California delegation on Tuesday. Wearing a gag over her mouth, she protested efforts to discourage Clinton supporters from speaking out.
"There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this is Barack Obama's convention," Clinton said on Monday. And yet, she said, some of her delegates "feel an obligation to the people who sent them here" and would vote for her.
As part of the deal, Obama and Clinton activists teamed up and circulated three petitions on the convention floor Monday night - supporting submission of Clinton's and Obama's names for president in the roll call and Biden's for vice president. Each needed 300 signatures.
The second-day lineup also features 11 governors and prominent House and Senate leaders.
Former Vice President Al Gore, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are among the speakers lined up for Thursday night's convention finale.
Obama will accept the nomination before an estimated 75,000 people at the Denver Broncos' football stadium that night.
Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are viewed favorably by a majority of adults, according to a USA Today-Gallup poll released Tuesday.
She is viewed favorably by 54 percent of those surveyed and unfavorably by 43 percent. His ratings are similar: 52 percent to 44 percent. About half - 52 percent - said they'd like to see her run again for president.