According to several sources in both Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s Senate office and on the Democratic National Committee, Clinton did ask for speaking time at the party’s convention in Boston.
“I know for a fact that she specifically asked for a solo speaking slot on Tuesday night,” says a DNC staffer.
The primetime, keynote address will be made that night by the comparatively unknown Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama. It isn’t clear that Clinton asked for the keynote address slot.
According to the DNC source, party chairman Terry McAuliffe presented a list of potential convention speakers to the Kerry-Edwards campaign weeks ago. “Some of the names were identified as people who had requested a speaking role,” says the source. “Others on the list were only suggestions by the party, but did not specifically request a role. No one could look at that list and not see that Hillary was both suggested and that she had requested a role. It’s an out and out lie that she wasn’t suggested or pushed for a speech.”
Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to make a prime time address to the convention, and both he and his wife were scheduled to make a series of appearances at convention parties and fundraisers in Boston. Months ago, DNC sources were predicting Hillary would be one of the stars of the convention. But Kerry insiders apparently feared that too much Clinton on and off the dais for four days would lessen the impact of Johns Kerry and Edwards.
“This had less to do with Edwards, because he hasn’t been totally plugged into the campaign operation for that long,” says a Kerry insider. “This has more to do with Kerry, [Bob] Shrum, [Mary Beth] Cahill, that level of adviser.”
Clinton supporters have been uneasy about their relationship to the Kerry campaign, in part due to Bill Clinton’s machinations last year in the early stages of the Democratic primary when he openly recruited Wesley Clark to jump into the race and when he later announced that Clark and Hillary were the new stars of the Democratic Party.
“Kerry has never forgotten how badly he was treated by the Clintons,” says another Kerry associate. “He’s had people like [Ted] Kennedy and [Max] Cleland whispering in his ear for months about how he can’t trust the Clintons and that he owes them no favors.”
According to other insiders, another reason to block Hillary cited by Kerry folk was her performance at a Democratic fundraiser in San Francisco several weeks ago, where to a cheering crowd she announced that Democrats would have to raise everyone’s taxes for the good of the country.
Clinton staffers claimed that the Kerry campaign had seen her remarks and approved them. Kerry campaign staffers insist that didn’t happen.
As it stands now, Clinton’s only scheduled, formal appearance is slated to occur on convention Monday. She was informed last week that it was to be a nonspeaking appearance, standing with the other female, Democratic members of the Senate as Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski makes brief remarks.
Late Wednesday, Clinton supporters were lobbying both McAuliffe at the DNC and Kerry advisers on the campaign for a larger role later at the convention.
“They will try to spin it that anything more Hillary does in Boston was going to happen all along, but that was scripted as a ‘surprise,'” says a New York adviser to Clinton. “But that’s b.s. If she had a bigger role, she and Bill wouldn’t be behind the scenes engineering this PR disaster for Kerry. And that’s exactly what they are doing.”
The Clintons, on the other hand, may be in for a rude surprise. While Bill Clinton may believe the Democratic Party is his plaything, John Kerry believes that at least for the next five months it is his to do with what he wishes.
A year ago, Republicans in the Senate believed they had a shot at picking up two or three additional seats this election cycle, and Sen. George Allen, the GOP’s point man on recruiting the party’s candidates, was looking like a surefire power player in national politics.
Now Republicans will consider themselves lucky to hold the slim majority they possess, and some insiders are concerned that they might lose that margin. “While things in Alaska are looking a little bit better, we’re not seeing the numbers we thought we would from our candidates,” says a senior Republican Senate staffer working on re-election issues for the party.
Allen has earned points for recruiting standout candidates in Florida (Mel Martinez) and Georgia (Herman Cain). Prior to the release of his divorce papers, Illinois’ Jack Ryan seemed like a sound choice too. But Allen’s failure to have a backup in place in Illinois, despite weeks of stories that Ryan was in trouble, failures to find a strong candidate in the open Oklahoma race, and disorganization in states like Colorado and Florida, where Allen and the party failed to clear the field for a single, strong candidate, have Allen’s political star sputtering.
“A year ago, people were talking about him as a possible vice presidential replacement if Cheney didn’t run again, or as a possible dark horse presidential candidate in ’08,” says the Senate staffer. “You’re not hearing any of that talk now.”