U.S. Democrats preach party unity

Other News Materials 25 August 2008 01:21 (UTC +04:00)

Democrats preached party unity on Sunday on the eve of a four-day convention to nominate Barack Obama for the White House as his advisers predicted disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton would fall in line.

More than 4,000 Democratic delegates and tens of thousands of officials, activists, protesters and journalists descended on Denver for the formal crowning of Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, as the party's leader and candidate for president.

Obama advisers played down the gathering's one potential note of discord -- the continued unhappiness among some supporters of Clinton, the New York senator who was narrowly beaten by Obama in a bitter nominating struggle.

Obama has tried to ease the tension, agreeing to let Clinton have her name placed in nomination and giving her a prime-time speaking slot on Tuesday night. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will speak on Wednesday night.

But anger over her treatment flared among her supporters again when Obama chose Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate on Saturday -- and apparently never investigated putting her on the ticket.

"Look, he has a high regard for Senator Clinton," Obama adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "But he felt that Senator Biden would be the best fit for him at this time."

Obama spoke with both Clintons this week, and his advisers predicted any bruised feelings would heal by the time Obama delivers his acceptance speech before 80,000 at Denver's football stadium on Thursday.

The speech by Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, falls on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- a highlight of the 1960s civil rights movement.

"Senator Obama had a great conversation with Senator Clinton this week as well as former President Bill Clinton. Everybody's on board. And it's going to drive the media crazy when we come out of this convention united," said Obama strategist Robert Gibbs.

Obama, who was on the campaign trail on Sunday in the battleground state of Wisconsin, is running neck-and-neck with Republican White House rival John McCain in most national polls ahead of the November 4 election.

Republicans tried to fan the flames of a possible Clinton feud, launching a television ad featuring a series of her criticisms during the primary campaign, Reuters reported.