Hillary Rodham Clinton will headline her own night at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama’s campaign announced Sunday in a nod to her strong second-place showing in the party’s presidential primary.
The former first lady will speak on the second night, Tuesday, Aug. 26 — the 88th anniversary of the women’s right to vote. The campaign and convention committee in a statement called her "a champion for working families and one of the most effective and empathetic voices in the country today."
The Obama campaign is trying to avoid hard feelings among Clinton’s supporters at their carefully orchestrated convention. But they still haven’t reached a deal on whether Clinton will be included in the roll call vote for the nomination, which could make the party appear divided heading into the final stretch of the White House race.
The campaign said Obama’s wife, Michelle, is slated to headline the opening night on Aug. 25. The high-profile appearance at the kickoff is a chance for the potential first lady, who has been attacked by GOP critics, to speak directly to voters. She can also help explain her husband to voters in the most personal terms.
"As the person who knows him best, Michelle will talk about the Barack Obama she knows and loves, the values that drive him, and why she believes he’ll be an extraordinary president," said Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Stephanie Cutter.
The yet-to-be-named vice presidential pick will speak on the third night, as is the tradition. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe tried to build excitement about the impending pick in an e-mail to supporters Sunday night, encouraging them to send their e-mail and phone numbers to "be the first to know."
Democratic officials say Bill Clinton is also scheduled to speak on the same night as the running mate. But only the headliners were listed in Sunday’s official announcement, made while Obama was vacationing in his native state of Hawaii.
The former president plans to be in the audience Tuesday to watch his wife’s speech. Democratic officials say she has not decided who will introduce her, but one option is her daughter, Chelsea.
One Clinton adviser, speaking on a condition of anonymity because speech preparations are being kept private, said she wants to deliver a "forward-looking" speech that pays homage to the historic nature of the primary between a black candidate and a woman candidate without dwelling on the divisions.
John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee who finished a distant third in the primary, was left off the speakers list as he grapples with revelations that he had an affair with a woman hired to produce campaign videos.
Obama is expected to become the party’s first black presidential nominee on the fourth and final night as the convention moves from Denver’s indoor Pepsi Center to a bigger venue at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. It happens to be the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Clinton told supporters she is seeking a way for her delegates to be heard at the convention and be united after the hard-fought nominating contest.
"Because I know from just what I’m hearing, that there’s incredible pent up desire. And I think that people want to feel like, ‘OK, it’s a catharsis, we’re here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Sen. Obama.’ That is what most people believe is the best way to go," she said, according to video of the remarks taken by an attendee and posted on YouTube last week.
Obama told reporters Thursday he thought the negotiations with Clinton aides had gone "seamlessly," but he also rejected the notion that there might be a need for emotional release on the part of some Democrats.
"I don’t think we’re looking for catharsis," said Obama. "I think what we’re looking for is energy and excitement."
Advisers to the New York senator said she will almost certainly not ask to have her name placed in formal nomination at the convention to avoid a divisive vote.
Under DNC rules, Clinton must submit a signed, written request to have her name placed in nomination, accompanied by a petition signed by at least 300 delegates. Some Clinton delegates have circulated such petitions, but the effort is meaningless without Clinton’s signed request.
Delegates are not formally pledged to any candidate so Clinton does not need to "release" them to Obama. The rules also say delegates may vote for the candidate of their choice whether or not the name of such candidate was placed in nomination.
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