Democrats say they're united behind ObamaDemocrats left their state convention rallying behind Barack Obama, but the party remained divided about whether Hillary Clinton should fill out the presidential ticket.
By: By Scott Wente and Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Alexandria Echo Press
ROCHESTER, Minnesota – Democrats left their state convention rallying behind Barack Obama, but the party remained divided about whether Hillary Clinton should fill out the presidential ticket.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party activists gathered at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center for a three-day convention that ended Sunday said they are heading into the general election season confident of Obama’s historic candidacy.
There is less agreement on whether Clinton, who Saturday ended her own run for president, could help or hurt Obama’s chances against Republican Senator John McCain.
Even delegates to the state DFL Party convention who supported Clinton said they have no trouble backing Obama, who claimed himself the party’s nominee in a St. Paul speech Tuesday night.
“I think it is time to move in a different direction,” said state Senator Dan Skogen of Hewitt, who was a delegate to the DFL convention and had supported Clinton. “I think Obama can better himself by choosing someone else.”
Colleen Michaelson, a delegate and St. Louis County social worker, said she wanted a Clinton presidency.
“I’m totally cool with Obama,” she said Sunday.
Activists said Clinton’s Saturday speech, which some Minnesota Democrats watched on monitors outside their convention, was important for the party to move forward.
“Hopefully it’ll go a long ways toward healing,” Michaelson said.
Democrats are in the process of uniting behind Obama, but they are not fully there.
“I think we’re getting there,” said delegate Nancy Larson of Dassel, who this weekend was elected a national committee woman from Minnesota. “We’re Democrats; we are never all together on anything.”
Like other Democrats, Nobles County DFL Chairman Doug Bauman said they eventually will be united behind Obama. “When you put your heart and soul in it, it is hard to give it up in one day.”
Larson disputed Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty’s contention that many Clinton supporters will vote for McCain.
“Some people threatened,” Larson said, but most Clinton Democrats she pushed on the issue admitted they would pick Obama over McCain.
Obama could face some difficulty among some rural Minnesotans, Larson said.
“There are a certain number of people who have fears because he is different on many levels,” she said.
Besides being an African American, which Larson said may take time for some people to accept, Obama approaches politics unlike most male politicians. Clinton addresses issues like most males, Larson said, while Obama tends to deal with matters more like many women, by listening to more people.
“People aren’t used to that as much,” Larson said.
Delegate Bill Hedin of Mazeppa said he doubts rural Minnesotans will choose McCain over Obama.
“I don’t perceive Minnesotans as being stereotypical” voters, he said.
Clinton may be more effective remaining in the Senate or serving in Obama’s Cabinet than as being vice president because of her skills and strong personality, said delegate Karen Bain of Park Rapids.
“I’m not against it,” Bain said of an Obama-Clinton ticket, “but I just think Clinton has a place she would be good, but maybe not as vice president.”
Bain said it was important for her Democratic Party that Clinton now is supporting Obama.
“I think it’s good that it’s decided, so everyone can get behind one candidate,” she said.
To be sure, Democratic leaders tried to persuade delegates to leave the three-day convention united. Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, who was a top Clinton supporter in Minnesota, told activists their presidential differences are history and they need to get behind Obama.
“He has my full support and I hope that he will have all of yours,” Dayton said. “The stakes are far too high for us to be divided and lose.”
“If we’re all united together, we will win in November,” Dayton added.