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Democrats Try to Heal Obama-Clinton Split

Democrats opened their national nominating convention in Denver, Colorado, Monday with a major unanswered question: will supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton rally behind the party's soon to be nominee, Senator Barack Obama? VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Denver.

Senator Obama narrowly defeated Senator Clinton after six months of primary and caucus elections that ended in June. But the resentment has lasted longer than many Democrats would like.

Moses Estrada is a Democratic delegate from Texas who says he will eventually support Senator Obama, even though his heart is with Hillary Clinton. Estrada says it is necessary that Senator Clinton's name be placed in nomination for a symbolic roll call vote so that Clinton and her supporters get their moment in the convention spotlight. After that, he says, he's prepared to support Senator Obama.

"Oh yes, I will, but we have got to do our thing here first. You know how it is. Because I was sent by the people in Texas to vote for Hillary on the first and second ballot, and then go with the wishes of the majority, which I believe is going to be Obama," says Estrada.

Another delegate committed to Clinton is Travis Burton of Minnesota. Burton acknowledges that some Clinton supporters are coping better than others when it comes to switching their allegiance from Clinton to Obama.

"There are a few people who are pretty upset. Unfortunately they feel she was mistreated, rightly or wrongly," he said. "Some feel that she is the more experienced candidate and has a better platform, which is why I voted for her initially as well. But the people have spoken, and that is what democracy is about. So, I don't think it will be an issue."

Public opinion polls suggest up to a quarter of former Clinton supporters could abandon the Democratic Party in November and vote for Republican John McCain.

Senator Clinton was well aware of that Monday when she addressed a group of Hispanic delegates in Denver.

"So I am asking you, those of you who supported me, I will be forever grateful to work as hard for Barack Obama as you worked for me during the primaries," she said.

Many Democratic officials and grassroots organizers insist that most Clinton loyalists will eventually support Senator Obama in November.

"There is no question that those of us who are disappointed that Hillary is not on the ticket in either capacity are also fully committed to making sure that the Obama-Biden ticket wins, and we are going to work real hard for that," said Ellen Malcom, president of a group called Emily's List, a grassroots political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights.

Senator Clinton's moment in the spotlight comes Tuesday night when she addresses the national convention in Denver. After that, the focus will quickly shift to Senator Obama and his vice presidential running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.