by Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
May 23 (Bloomberg) — Hillary Clinton has practically no chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and she’s under increasing pressure to drop out of the race so Barack Obama can start the general-election campaign. Don’t tell that to diehard loyalists like Lindsay Tanner.
“If she’s in it, I’m in it,” said Tanner, 32, an accountant from Birmingham, Alabama, who has taken weeks of vacation and paid her own way to Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky to wave signs, canvass neighborhoods and shout herself hoarse.
Many of Clinton’s true believers haven’t accepted her loss and, more troubling for Obama, a significant number say they would rather vote Republican or stay home than support him — unless the 60-year-old New York senator is also on the ticket.
There was a flurry of rumors today that Obama and Clinton were discussing a deal to make her his running mate, and that former President Bill Clinton was pushing it. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the reports were “completely untrue,” and Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee called them “absurd.”
Obama supporters such as Senator Edward Kennedy, 76, have dismissed that possibility and said he should focus on other candidates. Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, 63, said today he doubts there will be an Obama-Clinton ticket. “My guess is he’s going to want to have people with him that will complement what he wants to do,” said Dodd. A joint ticket “may not be the right fit.”
That’s not going to please Clinton supporters, many of whom say sexism and biased media coverage have made for an unfair fight. They’re furious that her wins in Florida and Michigan were invalidated because the states broke Democratic Party rules.
“The media’s been trying to manipulate us from the beginning,” said Miriam Picconi, 64, a church worker in Frankfort, Kentucky, who cheered Clinton on in a college gym weeks after delegate-counters said the race was over. She even donated $150 from her fixed income.
Paula Steinher, a 58-year-old housewife from Anderson, Ohio, has worked phone banks in three states. “I say, `Go to the end.’ They’re just trying to scare her off,” Steinher said of pundits and politicians aligned with Obama, 46, an Illinois senator.
“Bill Clinton says it’s a ploy to keep us at home,” agreed Larry Jewell, 57, a store clerk from Bowling Green, Kentucky, who brought his two sons to see Hillary Clinton. Jewell, who’s black, said he’s disappointed at other African-Americans for backing Obama over a female candidate he considers more experienced.
Last week, a group of women who have contributed to Clinton the maximum amount of money allowed formed WomenCount, an independent political action committee. Within days, they raised $300,000 for full-page ads in USA Today, the New York Times and regional newspapers. Headlined “Not So Fast,” the ad urges the party “to hear our voices and count all of our votes.”
In Miami, where Clinton pressed the case this week for counting her victories in Florida and Michigan, Margaret Black, 47, said she still prefers Clinton as “the person who can hit the ground running.”
Won’t Back Obama
Whether it’s anger at Obama’s comments about “bitter” small-town Americans, his relationship with a pastor who condemned the U.S., or racism, a number of Clinton loyalists say they won’t vote for him in November.
“I’m in denial now, I don’t want to think about her not winning,” said Tanner, who said this is the first time she put her heart, soul and wallet into politics. “I may write in her name” in November, she said.
Tanner’s friend, Julie Mann, 29, a marketing executive who knows Clinton’s wardrobe so well that she could predict which color jacket she’d be wearing at a recent rally, shook her head vehemently when asked if she could support Obama.
“The more people learn about Obama, the less happy they are,” said Mann, who volunteered for Clinton in six states.
Carol Palmore, 59, former Kentucky labor secretary, said she’ll support Obama in the fall, overcoming aching disappointment she and many other women feel. “Never in our lifetime will we have another chance to have a woman president,” she said.
Hillary as VP?
Rodney Mattingly, 56, a public health official from Lebanon, Kentucky, echoed the sentiments of many Clintonites in offering a possible solution: “If she were the VP, we’d vote for Obama.”
Some Democrats say that would be a bad trade-off for Obama.
Dan Gerstein, a Democratic strategist and Obama supporter, said Clinton “turns off a decent chunk” of the electorate, especially independent voters, so choosing her as vice president would be inconsistent with Obama’s central theme: “He has spent the last several months saying that she is what’s wrong with Washington.”
Such a ticket would also offer too much diversity, he said. Having the first African-American run with a woman may be “too much change,” he said. “That may be injecting too much risk in the calculus.”