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Time for Hillary camp to move on

DENVER

Today’s convention lineup is designed to focus on the one-party, big-tent, unity theme.

But delegates here who were pledged to Obama see today more like "Catharsis Tuesday," and they will be quite happy when it’s over. "A lot of us would like to just get on with it," said JoEtta Brown of Gardnerville, who has supported Obama from the beginning of the campaign.

National media like to focus on the divide between the Obama and Clinton camps from the side of the losing campaign. And there are plenty of Clinton delegates here to keep stoking that fire. Even with a prime speaking role and a ceremonial roll call vote, Clinton delegates were still talking about how the Obama campaign didn’t do a full vetting of the former first lady during the vice presidential selection process.

Maybe it’s because Clinton really made only the short list of media prospects, not Obama’s.

The divide in the party is perhaps more hurtful to Obama supporters, many of whom think Clinton needs to do more than heal her own tonight. "There has to be something in her speech to say, ‘OK, we’re on this train now ready to elect Obama’," Brown said. "The train left the station long ago."

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, who caucused for Obama and was later selected as a delegate, sees it the same way. "It’s clear who our presidential nominee is and it’s time to rally behind our nominee," she said.

Xiomara Rodriguez of Gardnerville isn’t sure the party can handle much more national media coverage of Clinton. "It’s like your favorite aunt has passed away and every day someone keeps coming up to you to tell you their memories of her," Rodriguez said. "You can never heal as long as it keeps coming up over and over. That wound is deep, and every reference just pours more salt on it."

Rodriguez, a military veteran, is readying her own speech to the convention — set for early in the agenda Wednesday.

She thinks Clinton’s speech tonight is necessary, not so much to ease the frustrations of her supporters, but to try to bring some of her voters back into the fold. "It’s hard to imagine there are Democrats out there that would honestly vote for McCain," she said.

Gabrielle Keys, a 20-year-old College of Southern Nevada student, said she would have felt hurt had Obama finished second for the nomination. "I know they’re still hurting, but I just hope the Hillary supporters listen to her," Keys said.

The big post-analysis tonight is largely going to focus on whether Clinton’s speech hit the right tones of conciliation and whether the party can now move on. And yet tomorrow could also bring a whole host of new splinter issues.

Clinton delegates may see any number of slights. Maybe the Obama delegates won’t cheer respectfully enough. Maybe some will throw hateful barbs such as "Yes We Can." Or maybe the pundits will comment on her outfit or her hair or God knows what else.

If it’s true the press gave Obama "a free ride" during the primaries, then it has allowed Clinton to ride along much longer than she deserved. This is no longer a fresh wound. And any Democrat who wants to keep picking that scab is putting emotion over simple logic. You cannot win a close election — an election that should rest on independent voters — without nearly lockstep support from your own party.

And this cathartic prime-time spectacle may not change anything. Just seeing Clinton on the stage will lead many of her supporters to once again wonder "what if."

Tonight’s stage show is more suited for Lifetime than Prime Time. (There I go again, being gender biased.) And John McCain is praying the Democratic diva will try to steal the show.

Of course, unlike many of her most strident supporters, she has too much class for that. She understands, at the end of the day, that a party divided will not win.

It’s just taken everyone much too long to let it go.

When you talk to voters here, you get a real sense Colorado may already be blue. Random voters have all told me over the past few days that they can’t imagine a McCain presidency.

A family from Colorado Springs I met at Coors Field on Sunday said they would be first-time Democratic voters this fall. The two sisters, their spouses, kids and 75-year-old father each said they were voting for Obama because of his energy or economic policies. "It sounds trite but it isn’t," said Jeanette Collins. "We really need change in this country."

Collins said if she were organizing the convention she wouldn’t have let Clinton speak tonight. "It’s only important for her," Collins said. "It’s like she needs one more moment."

Her "One Shining Moment" tonight should be her last. This montage has already played on too long. And if we’re left seeing this on reruns, Democrats will certainly also see a repeat of the past two elections.

 

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

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