By Christine Stuart and Melissa Bailey
Denver—Republicans supplied the booze. Disgruntled Dems loyal to Hillary Clinton supplied the anti-Obama vitriol.
After 16 years of GOP Hillary-bashing—with the harshest attacks in reserve if she had become this fall’s Democratic presidential nominee—you might think that Clinton fans would find little to toast Republicans over.
But that was then. Before Hillary lost the Democratic nomination sweepstakes to Barack Obama.
One night before Hillary planned to take the stage at the National Democratic Convention and urge party unity, some of her supporters weren’t following the message. At least not the Hillary-backers found Monday night at Denver’s Paramount Cafe.
The Republican National Committee was hosting a happy hour for Hillary-ites, hoping to capitalize on polls showing as many as 50 percent of Clinton Democrats open to voting Republican this fall, for presidential candidate John McCain. The event drew about 30 people wearing “Nobama” stickers.
Looking For A Miracle
Over by the buffet bar, two northeasterners shared a table and a firm determination to vote against Obama.
Chloe Marchese, of western Massachusetts, picked at a plate of chips and salsa. Wayne Singleton, a Long Island business exec, finished a tall glass of beer.
Both flew across the country not to take part inside the Democratic National Convention, but to protest the treatment of their candidate, Hillary Clinton, by the party. Both have joined a pro-Hillary, anti-Obama alliance named P.U.M.A., which stands for “Party Unity My Ass.”
Singleton heads up a spin-off subgroup, POCPUMA, for People of Color P.U.M.A.
Both are holding out hopes that Clinton would still make it on the presidential ticket. That outcome is very, very unlikely: Clinton has pitched her support to Obama, and is directing her delegates to do the same. Meanwhile, Obama has named Joe Biden his running mate.
Clinton has assigned whips to make sure that her delegates don’t cause an insurgency during a roll-call nomination vote at the Convention Wednesday.
So some of the Hillary fans have pitched their support to McCain instead. “I’m definitely going to vote for John McCain if Hillary isn’t on the ticket,” said Marchese. “It’s Hillary first, John McCain second, and Obama never.”
“Obama scares me,” replied the woman, because of his “black liberation theology.” While Obama has rebuffed the ideology, Marchese said she was suspicious because of his longtime association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. She called Obama an inexperienced “flip-flopper.”
Marchese and Singleton said their main beef, however, was with the nomination process—the party’s initial exclusion of Michigan and Florida delegates’ votes, and alleged pressure put on Hillary delegates to swing for Obama.
“This is a statement about the process,” said a fired-up Singleton, saying his candidate had been “pushed out of the process” in an “abomination of democracy.”
How do the two feel about sharing drinks, and votes, with a party that for 16 years has worked to tear down their favorite candidate? Is the GOP profiting on their disgust by courting their vote at this point?
“Maybe,” said Marchese, “but that’s not the reason behind my vote.”
Recent polling data revealed that half of Hillary supporters do not plan to vote for Obama. McCain has been capitalizing on that demographic, disseminating a video of a Democratic defector now pitching support to the GOP.
“It doesn’t make a difference” if the GOP profits from his disgust, said Singleton. “I’m not going to reward” Obama or the Democrats, he said.
As they drank up, Jessie Cleaver, 35, from Manhattan, and Krista Duffy, 30, of Michigan (pictured), said they were on the fence.
Cleaver said her depends on whom McCain chooses as his running mate. The two people who would turn her off to McCain are Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Regardless, “I really don’t think I could go for Obama,” she said.
Cleaver was a campaign volunteer for Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary; she said she doesn’t like how Clinton was treated. She said she thinks the Democratic Party is totally “fractured right now.”
Duffy said during January she voted for Clinton even though “I was told my vote wasn’t going to count.” She said she doesn’t think a national party should be able to dictate how a state can run an election. [Michigan had defied a national party order not to hold its primary that early.]
Duffy, who sported a black T-shirt she purchased from the Clinton campaign as a way to pay of Clinton’s campaign debt, said if she did vote for McCain it would be move of a protest vote than a vote of confidence. However, after McCain’s tough-talking reaction to the conflict in Georgia, she found herself thinking, “You know I could vote for this guy.”
It was Duffy and Cleaver’s first convention. Cleaver said she came to Denver to “see what’s really going on and show my support for Hillary.” She said even if she does vote for McCain and he wins the presidency, she’s confident Democrats will control Congress.
Cleaver said Clinton supporters are turned off by Obama because Clinton supporters are generally “policy wonks.” She said she was particularly upset with Obama’s flip-flop on FISA, an act which gave telecommunications companies immunity from participating in government wiretaps.