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Joan Vennochi

Fired up and ready for a nomination battle

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / April 6, 2008

IN MASSACHUSETTS, prominent Hillary Clinton supporters are fired up and ready to go after prominent Barack Obama supporters.

Last week, a group of Democratic women who support Clinton rallied in front of the State House. They want the state's superdelegates - including Governor Deval Patrick and Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry - to support primary revotes in Michigan and Florida.

The men - all Obama supporters - are less than eager to take up their request. The women, lead by Senate President Therese Murray, have Clinton's self-interest on their side. But they also have principle.

By disenfranchising voters in two states, the Democratic Party looks less than inclusive; and, Obama, the candidate who promises a different kind of politics, looks like he's practicing the same old, same old. That's wrong, and it's also shortsighted. If the Obama campaign works to stifle votes now, how can any Democratic nominee complain if Republicans do the same in November?

The national party is still trying to figure out how to handle more than 2 million votes cast by Florida and Michigan Democrats. After both states ignored party rules by scheduling their primaries when they did, the Democratic National Committee stripped their delegates. With Obama opting to stay off the ballot, Clinton won 55 percent of the vote in Michigan. She won 50 percent of the vote in Florida.

"The road to winning the White House goes through Michigan and that is why our voices need to be heard in selecting a Democratic nominee," Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said. "Nearly 600,000 people voted in the Jan. 15 Democratic primary and our votes must count and our delegates must be seated."

The party is wrangling over how delegates will be apportioned, with Obama forces working to keep Clinton's share as low as possible. The obvious remedy - a revote - was derailed. "The Obama people didn't want it to happen," said a Granholm aide.

However, Clinton supporters in Massachusetts - especially female elected officials - aren't giving up.

Clinton won the Massachusetts primary over Obama, despite his high-profile male supporters. Now, Clinton backers are pressuring the male political establishment to support revotes elsewhere.

The State House rally also included Boston City Council President Maureen Feeney; Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral; former state treasurer Shannon O'Brien; and former lieutenant governor Evelyn Murphy. They are threatening to withhold support for the party nominee, if they don't like the way the nominating process plays out.

"Without us, there is no party. And if we leave, that wouldn't be good," said Murray, according to a State House News Service report.

Earlier this year, Murray, the first woman to hold the Senate president's post, chastised Kennedy and other prominent men for abandoning Clinton to support Obama. "I don't want to be pushed aside anymore," said Murray. "I don't want to be patted on the head, saying, 'You did a good job on that, but now we got this young person, we got this attractive man, because you can't get elected because the media said you couldn't, because the polls said you couldn't. We're going to put this guy out front.' "

Kennedy backs a delegate-driven nomination, rather than one determined by superdelegates. It's a position of some irony, given his stance during the 1980 presidential campaign, when he and incumbent President Jimmy Carter battled through a nine-month primary season. Kennedy came into the Democratic Convention with fewer delegates than Carter, and pushed unsuccessfully for a rule to release delegates from their voting commitment. A few years later, the party embraced the rule that prevails today; so-called superdelegates can pledge their vote to whomever they prefer.

Kerry - the Democratic presidential nominee still haunted by how the votes were counted in Ohio in 2004 - told Clinton's female supporters he cares about fairness, but has yet to finalize a meeting with them.

Patrick finally agreed to a one-hour meeting set for Thursday, after repeated requests from women who were among his staunchest supporters during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

Watch out, guys. Another revolution could be brewing in Massachusetts.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com.

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