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Barack Obama Needs To Carefully Handle Hillary Clinton's Supporters

One media outlet described the release of the draft Democratic platform as a "compilation of Obama stump speeches," with just a nod to former candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards.

But a close Clinton ally tells me the Clinton camp is quite happy with the platform's inclusion of language to the effect that Clinton placed 18 million "cracks" in the glass ceiling (an allusion to her winning 18 million votes during the primaries).

That said, there are heated discussions ongoing "as we speak" between Clinton's representatives and the now Obama-controlled Democratic National Committee over Clinton's role at the convention. The big question is whether or how to acknowledge her win of almost 1,900 delegates (1,896) to Obama's 2,229.

One would think with his nomination now secure, Obama's people would be happy to take the high road and acknowledge Clinton's accomplishments. Particularly since a new poll shows some 24 percent of her former supporters say they will either vote for rival Sen. John McCain or not vote at all.

Not so, says my source. With the Democratic Convention just weeks away, it is still unclear whether Hillary Clinton's name will be placed in nomination or included in the roll call at the event. At a recent event, Clinton encouraged her supporters to yell and scream at the convention, but to then unify the party.

In the video, she says, "I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard and their views were respected. I think that is a very big part of how we actually come out unified. Because I know from just what I'm hearing that there's this 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 Senator Obama. That is what most people believe is the best way to go. No decisions have been made. And so we are trying to work all this through with the DNC and with the Obama campaign."

Clinton and Obama released a joint statement earlier this week affirming they'll work together. Yet my source tells me "togetherness" is not the tone used to describe negotiations between the camps. The Clinton people want to employ some method used at a prior convention. It was suggested to me, for example, that the roll call could be announced, but before the voting started, Clinton could come to the podium and tell all her delegates to cast votes for Obama. Diane Mantouvalos is cofounder of the website She told me by phone from Boston this week that many Clinton supporters won't be satisfied if the Obama camp denies Clinton delegates an opportunity to be seen and heard at the convention: "Democracy isn't something you negotiate. It is only fair for her delegates to cast her vote."

Ellen Moran is the executive director of Emily's List, which endorses pro-choice female Democratic candidates for office. The group backed Clinton before she ended her campaign in June. Now Emily's List won't endorse but is supporting Obama. She told me in person this week:

"What I think we'll see at the convention is Senator Clinton and Senator Obama working together and many of our supporters working together to show real elect Obama and to elect Democrats up and down the ticket this November," she said. "You might say that women voters hold this election in the palm of their hands. And certainly every Democrat running--and Obama is no exception--will have to continue to work to win those women over. "

Mantouvalos told me that without Clinton supporters behind him, Obama cannot beat McCain: "We contend [that lack of unity is] the reason Senator Obama is in a dead heat with a 71-year-old Republican, and--no disrespect for Senator McCain, but age is a factor to many voters. He represents the incumbent party, [which] most of the American people are unhappy with. Why is it that the are tied right now?"

Mantouvalos believes it is because a large chunk of Clinton's 18 million supporters are upset the Obama campaign has not been more gracious toward Senator Clinton and has done little to reach out to her former supporters.

By Bonnie Erbe