Clinton releases delegates
Denver (AP) — In an emotional meeting leading up to the Democratic roll call of the states, Hillary Rodham Clinton released her convention delegates Wednesday to vote for certain presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Many in the crowded ballroom yelled back, "No!"
Clinton, speaking a couple of hours before the nomination vote was scheduled, would not instruct her followers on how to vote.
"I am not telling you what to do," she said. "You've come here from so many different places having made this journey and feeling in your heart what is right for you to do."
Clinton told her loyal followers: "I want you to know that this has been a joy. Yes, we didn't make it. But, boy, did we have a good time."
A roll call vote was scheduled for later in the afternoon after brief nominating speeches for both Clinton and Obama. The former rivals negotiated a plan that would cut off the split roll call after a few states - perhaps by Clinton herself - in favor of acclamation for Obama.
But delegates did not have specific instructions on how the process would work or which states would participate, even as they received their ballots Wednesday morning. With Clinton's encouragement during the meeting and in a speech to the convention Tuesday night, a swell of Clinton delegates said they would support Obama.
"If she can get up there and put everything aside and say she's supporting Barack Obama with her whole heart, then it's up to us to do the same thing," said Clinton delegate Shirley McCombs of Illinois.
Kathleen Krehbiel, Clinton's Iowa vote-counter, said she made up her mind to switch and believed most Clinton loyalists also were coming around.
"I did not want to see a floor fight," she said. "I don't see any further reason to continue to carry out a pretense that she's a candidate. She's not."
Not all Clinton supporters were on board. Sonja Jaquez Lewis, a Clinton delegate from Colorado, said she and others may walk out if Clinton is denied a roll call.
"If we don't have an official roll call vote, state-by-state, it is going to reopen a wound," Lewis said.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said Democrats from his state, which Clinton won, voted in private to unanimously support Obama.
"I think it is reflective of the unity that I sense that is building across the party," Corzine said. "That doesn't mean there won't be outliers that are still heartbroken their favorite candidate didn't make it."
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, said in an AP interview that he will vote for Obama "wistfully but enthusiastically." But Rendell estimated somewhere around 10 or 12 Clinton delegates from his state weren't "going to be able to bring themselves to vote for anybody other than Senator Clinton."
He insisted that's not a slight of Obama, rather a reflection of their hard work for Clinton and their deep admiration for her and her bid to become the first woman president.
"Even though Hillary tells us not to spend any time thinking about what might have been," he said, pausing as tears welled in his eyes, "I'm sure all of us were thinking about what might have been last night."
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, an Obama supporter, said Clinton's challenge in getting her delegates to come on board with Obama "may be the biggest test of her leadership."
"If she's not a strong enough leader to get her followers to do what's right for America, then that would surprise me," McCaskill told the AP. "I think they are going to follow her lead, and her lead was very crystal clear last night."
Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett, Steven K. Paulson, Stephen Ohlemacher, Scott Lindlaw, Christopher Wills and Kim Hefling in Denver and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.