DENVER -- I just swung by what was billed as a celebration of Hillary Clinton at Confluence Park here in Denver to get an idea of how large of a contingent the pro-Clinton block represented at the convention, and whether it lived up to the media hype. I must say that though "Hillary for President" signs adorned much of the park, and they had tent space set up, there were only about 20 people on hand to show their support for the New York Senator.
The organizers of the event insisted that it was still early in the day (I was there from around noon to 1:30), Clinton had her own events going on, and the big day would be tomorrow, when she speaks at the convention and they are planning a march in her honor.
What I learned by talking with several folks there is that there are two strains within the community of die-hard Clinton supporters. The founder of "18 Million Strong, Rise Hillary Rise," Elizabeth Fiecher, repeatedly emphasized to me that her group was not out to divide the Democratic Party, but to support women's rights and celebrate Hillary Clinton. She did not want to be confused with the P.U.M.A.,'s who are staunchly anti-Obama and ready to vote for John McCain.
I spoke to two Clinton delegates from Colorado who are still voting for her on the first ballot. Brenda Krause of Colorado Springs doesn't know what she's going to do in November, but said she can't talk to the media about it, because if she said she were going to vote for McCain, she'd risk being stripped of her status as a delegate, and that is what really got her going.
"It's fascist," Krause told me, and said that several Clinton delegates she knows were threatened by the DNC after publicly criticizing Obama. "I don't think that's right. That's not Democratic. That's not freedom of speech."
Another delegate, Daniel Kagan of Denver, said he planned to vote for Clinton on the first ballot, but would ultimately get behind Obama in November because as a Democrat he doesn't want to see McCain elected. He did, however, say that the Obama people could have done a much better job unifying the party by bringing in the Clinton backers and being proactive about putting her name in the convention ballot.
While I was there, a dyed in the wool P.U.M.A. showed up wearing a homemade white t-shirt that read, "DNC A DISGRACE" on the front, and on back it said "CLINTON DEM/ NO DEAL OBAMA/CLINTON DEM 4 MCCAIN."
The woman, Marcella Mitchell, came from Houston, Texas to show her support for Clinton, and repeatedly emphasized that as an African American woman she saw through Obama from the beginning, and employed an expression that my father used when I was growing up. "He's a bullsh*t artist," Mitchell said. "And you cant sh*t a sh*tter."
A hospital worker from Ft. Hood and disabled veteran of the Gulf War, Mitchell said she is definitely voting for McCain, and nothing can change her mind.
"What the DNC did was wrong," she said. "I'm not gonna vote for wrong."
When she was watching the Democratic debates, Mitchell said she believed that Obama repeatedly copied Clinton's answers, demonstrating that he has no original ideas of his own, nor any experience on foreign policy. The fact that he picked Joe Biden as his running mate, she said, shows that his "change" message was all talk.
But what particularly galled her was the fact that she felt Obama played the race card, and she was happy to see the McCain campaign call him on it when he tried to do it in the general election. "Oh, did I mention he was black?" she said, mocking Obama's pronouncement that Republicans would try to use his race against him. "Who gives a crap? We know you areâ€¦I knew he was gonna play the race card, and when he did, it bit him in the ass."
She also complained about the Rev. Wright controversy, and referred to him as "Rev. Wrong," saying that as a member of an African American church, she doesn't believe that Obama could have listened to his pastor's sermons for 20 years and not know what Wright was about.
"And he's got judgment?" she said, laughing, and slapping her knee. "Who does he think he's talking to? Sally Fufu?"
So, there's a taste, anyway. There are definitely hard-core Clinton supporters out there who are ready to vote for McCain -- or at least refuse to vote for Obama. But how big of a group is it? Thus far I haven't seen evidence here that the movement is large enough to cost Obama the election. But all of this is obviously rough and anecdotal. Â