WASHINGTON Turns out Democratic primary loser Hillary Rodham Clinton will get time to shine at the party's national convention after all and quite a bit of it.
Democrats officially will choose Barack Obama to run against Republican John McCain this month. But in an emblematic move meant to heal divisive primary wounds, the vanquished Clinton name also will be placed in nomination alongside his during the traditional state-by-state delegation roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
And, she gets her own plum speaking slot.
So does her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Voting on Clinton's name "could prove interesting," said Utah Democratic Party executive director Todd Taylor, "but won't change the outcome" Democrats will still nominate Obama for president.
Nine of the 29 Utah delegates to the convention are under a "moral, but no legal" requirement to vote for Clinton, based on candidate proportional results of the Utah Democratic presidential primary election last Feb. 5, said Taylor.
"Officially, the delegates are supposed to respect the wishes of those who elected them. But really, they can vote for whomever they like," said Taylor, who doesn't have a vote in the convention.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and the other five so-called "superdelegates" from Utah have all endorsed Obama. But Matheson isn't going to the convention he hasn't gone to one since he won office in 2000 and his vote can't be replaced. So Utah will have only 28 votes at the convention.
Taylor said he imagines that when Utah's name is called in the official roll call of states, nine votes will go for Clinton and 19 votes for Obama.
Donald Dunn, Utah chairman of the Clinton campaign, said Thursday that he believes it is appropriate and right that Clinton's Utah delegates get the chance to vote for her.
"Democrats stand for counting each vote, and I'm proud we're going to do this in our convention," said Dunn, the former Utah Democratic Party chairman.
All of the high-profile Clinton action, spread over at least half of the convention's four prime-time speaking nights, ensures an enormous presence for the couple who have been national fixtures in the Democratic Party since 1992 and whose latest White House bid, hers, split the party into for-them or against-them camps.
Among the risks: past leaders of the party overshadowing the current standard-bearer.
In fact, the party has a history of other Democrats showing-up the guest of honor.
The keynote speaker four years ago Obama seemed to get more love and better reviews during the 2004 convention in Boston than hometown nominee John Kerry, who selected the up-and-comer to speak. Jesse Jackson stole Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis' show in Atlanta in 1988, and Ted Kennedy's "dream will never die" speech brought down New York's Madison Square Garden during Jimmy Carter's 1980 soiree.
To guard against that, Obama's keynote speaker Mark Warner of Virginia will deliver his address the same day Clinton does Aug. 26 while the ex-president shares the next day Aug. 27 with the as-yet-named vice presidential running mate. On the final convention night, Aug. 28, Obama will accept the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination before a much bigger crowd at a separate venue.
Historically, the roll call has occurred on the convention's third night. That's still likely, although Democrats say the mechanics of how the vote will play out still are being determined. When it occurs, Clinton herself a superdelegate who gets a vote is expected to release her delegates to Obama, announce her support for him and ask her backers to do the same.
Fierce rivals then but wary allies now, Obama and Clinton agreed to put both of their names into nomination after weeks of negotiations. They made the announcement Thursday in a collegial joint statement that noted that some 35 million people participated in the primary and that both wanted to "honor and celebrate these voices and votes."
"I am convinced that honoring Sen. Clinton's historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together in a strong united fashion," said Obama, an Illinois senator.
Added Clinton, D-N.Y.: "With every voice heard and the party strongly united, we will elect Sen. Obama president of the United States and put our nation on the path to peace and prosperity once again."
The symbolic move was intended to help the Democratic Party come together after a bruising primary and acknowledge the former first lady's groundbreaking presidential run. She was the first woman to compete in all the Democratic Party primaries, though she fell short of becoming the first to achieve a major party nomination for the White House. Obama finished the race with a 364-delegate lead over Clinton, according to an Associated Press tally.
"Both sides have something the other wants," said former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat who had previously urged Obama and Clinton to unite and run on the same ticket. "He needs her support."
Of the Clintons, Doug Muzzio, a professor of politics at Baruch College in New York, said: "In a sense, they've got Obama hostage and are exacting their ransom" with their convention involvement.
Clinton is ever mindful of her legacy and surely wants her accomplishment noted. She also has been trying to raise money to pay off roughly $13 million in campaign debts, and she has said that Obama could help her further. She also may be positioning herself for a reprise run; a strong national performance could help her repair some of her own political damage from the bare-knuckled primary.
Obama, for his part, no doubt wants a rancor-free convention. He also needs to mollify still-disgruntled Clinton backers, including working-class whites who are skeptical of him and women who are angry that their trailblazing candidate failed. He needs their support to beat McCain. While polls show that Obama has won over most of the Clinton faithful, some simply don't like Obama or still feel Clinton was treated unfairly during the primaries.Comment on this story
His critics have indicated they would make their voices heard during the party's Denver party in less than two weeks. One group intends to paper the city with fliers, promote a video detailing what they contend were irregularities in the nominating process and unleash bloggers to give their take on the proceedings. Others, like the pro-Clinton PUMAPAC, had called for such a roll call vote."I'm very pleased and I'm somewhat surprised," said Darragh Murphy, the group's executive director. "In my view, she's sticking up for her delegates, and she's going to take a lot of heat for this." Sam Arora, a spokesman for the now-dormant Vote Both said of Obama: "He is giving former Clinton supporters more and more reasons to support him."
Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr., Deseret News