Hillary Rodham Clinton closed the book on her 2008 presidential bid with an emphatic plea for the party to unite behind Barack Obama.
Now the Democratic convention spotlight turns to her husband, as former President Bill Clinton takes to the prime-time television stage Wednesday evening. He is expected to launch attacks on the Republican’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, and on the Bush administration.
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s choice as a running mate, will get prime-time exposure as well.
Hillary Clinton, who won 18 million votes but still failed to earn her party’s nomination, planned to meet with delegates who still want to cast ballots for her during the nominating roll call Wednesday evening — a symbolic move before Obama is nominated, presumably by acclamation. Clinton has not indicated whether she would have her name placed in nomination or seek a formal roll call vote.
Clinton’s aides said it remained unclear how exactly the meeting with the delegates would play out, or how her supporters will react.
"It’s not Hillary’s job to bring this party together," said Jennie Lou Leeder, a Clinton delegate from Llado, Texas. "It’s Barack Obama’s job to bring this party together."
It’s the kind of talk that Clinton tried to discourage. "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?" she said Tuesday night in her convention speech, addressing her supporters.
Clinton used her prime-time convention appearance to try to silence infighting over how to honor Clinton’s campaign without distracting from Obama’s upcoming contest against McCain.
"Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president," she said.
Even so, bringing the Democratic Party together is going to take more than a single speech. The best unifier among Democrats going into the final sprint might just be McCain.
"Arizonans are also proud of their political tradition, from Barry Goldwater to Mo Udall to Bruce Babbitt. There’s a pattern here," Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano told delegates Tuesday as part of the chorus eviscerating McCain. Goldwater, Udall and Babbitt all sought the presidency; none succeeded.
"Speaking for myself, and for at least this coming election, this is one Arizona tradition I’d like to see continue," Napolitano said.
Republicans, meanwhile, struggled for a bit of the spotlight. McCain has been airing commercials quoting critical comments from Obama’s former rivals. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential running mate for McCain, came to Denver and said, "Barack Obama is a charming and fine person with a lovely family, but he’s not ready to be president."
Bill Clinton, whose reputation took some hits during the primary season, stayed away from his wife and daughter Chelsea — who introduced her mother on stage Tuesday evening. Instead, he watched his wife’s speech from convention floor box seats.
"She was great," Clinton told The Associated Press as he left the convention hall. "Weren’t you proud of her?"
Obama, 47, formally receives the nomination Wednesday. He delivers his acceptance speech Thursday night at a football stadium. An estimated 75,000 tickets have been distributed for the event, meant to stir comparisons with John F. Kennedy’s appearance at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.
McCain and his yet-unnamed vice presidential pick are scheduled to receive their formal nomination at the Republican convention in Minneapolis next week.