THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Joan Vennochi

Soothing those raw political wounds

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
June 8, 2008

IT'S HEALING time for Massachusetts Democrats. At least, that's the hope.

Efforts are officially underway to get Hillary Clinton's disappointed supporters behind Barack Obama. The day after Obama became the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, dined with Clinton fund-raisers at Radius, a chic Boston restaurant. The dinner guests included some key Clinton female supporters, such as Elaine Schuster, Deborah Goldberg, and Shanti Fry.

"I think they appreciated the fact that Howard took time to lay out the plan for the fall," said Steve Grossman, a Clinton backer and former DNC chairman. But Grossman warned that "one meeting isn't necessarily going to do the job," particularly for those Clinton supporters who told Dean over dinner that their candidate earned the right to the second spot on the ticket.

Grossman said his transferral of support for Obama is "not conditional in any way, shape, or form." But, as far as others are concerned, he said it is an open question whether "there are going to be a significant number who say, if she [Clinton] is on the ticket, they will be on board 100 percent."

The Bay State, which backed Clinton on primary day, is a microcosm of the schism that developed between the two campaigns, particularly among women. Over the past few weeks, a group of prominent female Clinton backers tried to make the case to top Obama supporters like Governor Deval Patrick and US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry that the party owed something to their candidate. Eventually, they met with Dean, and asked him to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida in a way to benefit Clinton, as well as address the issue of sexism.

Last weekend, the contentious delegate issue was resolved in a way that did not help Clinton. On June 1, as a guest on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Dean finally addressed the gender issue, saying "There has been an enormous amount of sexism in this campaign on the part of the media, including the mainstream media. . . . What you don't get over is the deep wounds that have been inflicted on somebody because they happen to be a woman running for president of the United States."

How does that play in Massachusetts? Barbara Lee, a top Clinton fund-raiser, said that "Hillary is committed to ensuring there is a Democrat in the White House and she's serious about that. I am honored to follow her lead and commitment." However, Lee acknowledged that "the dust needs to settle for a few days. Some Hillary supporters need a little bit of time to get used to this."

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral needs more time. She is still unhappy that party leaders were silent about sexism, in contrast "to the outrage that pours forth in response to every real or manufactured example of racism." Added Cabral, who is black, "I think this is a problem that runs very deep. We've tried very hard to address it and to persuade Democratic party leaders to do the same, but there is real cognitive dissonance on this issue."

Bay State Democrats remain optimistic they can bring the party together.

"I do believe it can be done," said James Roosevelt, cochairman of the key party rules committee that oversaw the decision about seating Florida and Michigan delegates. "The difference on policy between Obama and Clinton is like the difference between 68 and 67 degrees. With McCain, they are just huge."

As a Dean supporter in 2004, Grossman knows what it's like to be on the losing side. In the end, he said that all Democrats should conclude, "We've got to win this election. The Supreme Court will be shaped by the next president. . . . I must be on the field of battle."

Besides, the former DNC chairman noted that Clinton "has already said, 'I will be raising money for the DNC and for the Obama campaign.' "

It will be up to Clinton to continue sending the right cues to Massachusetts and beyond.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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