(by Russell Berman, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – Senator Clinton will wait until Saturday – more than half a week since Senator Obama clinched the delegates to win the Democratic nomination – before throwing her support to her rival and beginning work to unify a divided party.
Her campaign, in a statement issued last night, explained that the event was delayed “to accommodate more of Senator Clinton’s supporters who want to attend.”
But Clinton critics are sure to read other motives into the decision, ranging from wanting to try to bury the event in the weekend papers to wanting more time for the conviction of an Obama associate, Antoin Rezko, to dominate the news cycle.
The delay could also give the Clinton camp more time to negotiate with Mr. Obama for concessions such as a spot for Mrs. Clinton as his running mate, a commitment to a mandate for universal health care, or help retiring her campaign debts, which are thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars and include personal loans to the campaign from Mrs. Clinton of more than $11 million. It isn’t clear, however, what leverage she has over him, beyond the ability to shift, as she has done this week, the press and public attention to some degree away from his historic victory and toward her drama.
Even some of Mrs. Clinton’s own supporters in the New York congressional delegation lost patience yesterday. Three of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters from New York did not wait for her event on Saturday and endorsed Mr. Obama last night. “It is critical that all delegates and all Democrats come together now to unite our party and put our efforts into mobilizing a strong collective push for the White House,” Reps. Gregory Meeks of Queens, Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn, and Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn said in a joint statement. “We stand ready to rally behind Senator Obama as we begin the next phase in the process of electing the next president of the United States of America.”
The move came as the former first lady faced increasing pressure from top backers to concede the race a day after Mr. Obama clinched the party’s presidential nomination.
“Senator Clinton will be hosting an event in Washington, D.C., to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity. This event will be held on Saturday to accommodate more of Senator Clinton’s supporters who want to attend,” her campaign said in a statement last night.
There were conflicting reports late yesterday as to exactly what Mrs. Clinton would say and how firmly she would endorse Mr. Obama.
The Associated Press reported she would suspend her campaign rather than officially end it. That would allow her to retain the delegates she has accumulated and give her added flexibility to retire the millions of dollars in debt she owes to vendors and herself. She could try to use the delegates as leverage to be picked as Mr. Obama’s running mate or to secure a policy commitment, although a top Clinton surrogate, Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania, told [New York News Channel] New York 1 yesterday that Mrs. Clinton could not “bargain” with Mr. Obama, despite her deep base of loyal supporters.
The former first lady had offered no indication of her plans earlier in the day as she spoke to a pro-Israel group before making calls to supporters and party leaders to discuss her options.
One of Mrs. Clinton’s closest allies, Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, had sent her a strong signal yesterday afternoon by publicly questioning her refusal to acknowledge Mr. Obama’s victory after he had secured the nomination on Tuesday night. He urged her to do so soon.
Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Pelosi and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, issued a statement yesterday morning calling on all superdelegates to announce their endorsements by Friday.
And the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who was a top White House official in the Clinton administration ended a long vow of neutrality and backed his Prairie State colleague, Mr. Obama.
In a conference call with leading House supporters, Mrs. Clinton had indicated she would make a decision about her next move within a week or 10 days, according to a senior Clinton backer who was briefed on the call. The lawmakers told her that was not quick enough, citing the need to rally around Mr. Obama.
“There was pushback on that phone call that it had to be sooner,” the Clinton supporter said.
Mr. Obama’s victory lap yesterday was undercut both by Mrs. Clinton’s indecision and by the corruption conviction late in the day of one of his former fund-raisers in Chicago, Mr. Rezko.
A real estate developer who had raised money for Mr. Obama during his rise through Illinois politics, Rezko was found guilty of 16 felony counts of fraud, money laundering, and bribery after a nine-week trial. The presumptive Democratic nominee was not implicated in any wrongdoing, but his name surfaced during the trial. He had voiced regret for entering into a land deal with Rezko after he had been tied to a corruption scandal.
Republicans immediately seized on the verdict to raise questions about Mr. Obama’s links to the developer and even released a video suggesting their relationship demonstrated poor judgment by the Illinois senator. “I’m saddened by today’s verdict,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “This isn’t the Tony Rezko I knew, but now he has been convicted by a jury on multiple charges that once again shine a spotlight on the need for reform.”
As for Mrs. Clinton, the Rezko verdict may have come too late for her primary campaign, but Democrats throughout Capitol Hill were speculating yesterday about her motives for holding back an endorsement of Mr. Obama.
Allies in Congress stepped up efforts to push Mr. Obama to name her as his running mate, and the founder of BET, Robert Johnson, a prominent Clinton supporter, joined in that bid.
Others suggested Mrs. Clinton simply needed time to decompress after a historic, 17-month campaign and did not want to be pressured into making an immediate decision.
A campaign spokesman said early in the day that she planned to spend last evening celebrating her mother’s 89th birthday.
Though some Obama supporters were irked by Mrs. Clinton’s speech on Tuesday night, his campaign avoided any public statements that would suggest it was pressuring her or pushing her out of the race. Mr. Obama praised her to reporters and said they would meet in the coming weeks.
Without mentioning Mrs. Clinton, the Obama campaign named a three-member committee to head its vice presidential selection process. The panel included Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, an Obama backer and the daughter of President Kennedy. The other members were a Washington lawyer and former federal prosecutor, Eric Holder, and a former aide to Vice President Mondale, James Johnson, who served as chief executive of Fannie Mae and is a current director of Goldman Sachs.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. How did Senator Clinton’s campaign explain her delay in giving her support to Senator Obama now that he has been nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate?
2. List some of the reasons Sen. Clinton might have for delaying her endorsement of Sen. Obama. (see para. 3 & 4)
3. The AP reported that Sen. Clinton might suspend rather than officially end her campaign. Why might she do so? (see para. 9)
4. Do you think that Sen. Clinton should have ended her campaign for Democratic nominee for president as soon as Barack Obama won the nomination? Explain your answer.
5. Should Senator Obama choose Sen. Clinton as his vice-presidential running-mate? Explain your answer.
Visit Sen. Clinton’s campaign website at hillaryclinton.com.
Visit Sen. Obama’s campaign website at barackobama.com.
Visit the Democratic National Committee website at democrats.org.