Hillary Rodham Clinton had a simple message Tuesday for her still loyal supporters: This election isn't about her any more. ( AP )
The former first lady ceded the nomination that was almost hers in a prime-time speech to Democratic delegates, closing another chapter in a long, improbable political career that took her from supportive spouse to political powerhouse.
She was warmly embraced by delegates split between herself and Barack Obama in the primary. Any who were still angry over her loss were drowned out in applause when she opened her speech by declaring herself "a proud supporter of Barack Obama."
She exhorted her backers to remember who was most important in this campaign.
"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?" she said. She urged them instead to remember Marines who have served their country, single mothers, families barely getting by on minimum wage and other struggling Americans.
All the Clintons, a longtime royal family of Democratic politics, were on hand to pass the torch to Obama. Clinton was introduced by her daughter Chelsea, while her husband watched from a box seat above the Arkansas delegation.
Clinton spoke on the eve of the delegate roll call in which both she and Obama will be nominated for president. But under a deal between the two camps, only some delegates will get the opportunity to cast a historic vote for either a woman or a black man before the split decision will be cut off in favor of unanimous consent for Obama.
But at the 11th hour, many details were unclear - which states would get a chance to vote, whether Clinton herself would cut it off in acclamation for Obama and if floor demonstrations would be tolerated.
The dealmaking and lack of direction left Clinton supporters frustrated.
"Just tell me what you want me to do," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, throwing up his hands and rolling his eyes in an Associated Press interview. Nutter, who had campaigned for Clinton during the Pennsylvania primary, later said he would support Obama in a roll call vote.
Even some of Clinton's most loyal allies - New York Democrats - are increasingly frustrated by the silence from her and her advisers on how to proceed. New York delegates would likely play a key role in the roll call salute to Clinton but they still have no idea what it is they are supposed to do, according to several Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are supposed to be publicly backing Clinton.
Clinton fueled confusion by refusing to publicly instruct her delegates how to vote, though she said she'll back Obama when the time comes. She planned to meet with her delegates Wednesday.
The convention hall was filled with delegates wearing their Clinton gear. There were Hillary T-shirts, buttons and stickers. Some delegates brought signs promoting Clinton for president. Many wore white shirts to mark the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage.
The Obama campaign gave Clinton her due. Before she took the stage Tuesday night, Obama's campaign distributed "Hillary" signs throughout the Pepsi Center. But only sentences into Clinton's speech, those signs were quickly swapped out for others proclaiming either "Obama" or "Hillary" on one side, and "Unity" on the other.
Some Clinton delegates weren't ready for so quick a pivot.
"We love you Hillary!" some shouted.