Clinton backers want her to seek the presidency

Posted Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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Four years hasn't been long enough to forget.

Some supporters of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, including Texans, remain bitter over how the last primary turned out, and they want their candidate back on the ballot this year, one way or another.

Petitions are being circulated to encourage Clinton to resign as secretary of state and run for president; write-in efforts are under way to put her name at the top of the ballot.

Some say they wouldn't mind if President Barack Obama did what has long been whispered: swap the jobs of Clinton and Joe Biden, making Clinton the vice presidential nominee and potentially pumping new energy into the Democratic base. A potential worst case, some say, would be teaming Clinton with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to create a bipartisan ticket for an emerging third party known as Americans Elect.

"The way Democrats felt in 2000 because of [George W.] Bush v. [Al] Gore is how PUMAs felt about Obama v. Hillary in '08," said Will Bower of Washington, D.C., who helped create the group known as PUMA, which stands for People United Means Action or Party Unity My A-- and counts a number of Texans as members. "There was a moral victor and a technical victor and the two weren't the same person.

"We felt robbed of our vote and haven't gotten over it," he said. "We would still like to see history corrected one way or another -- with Hillary as vice president in 2012 or as the presidential nominee in 2016."

Four years ago

For some Clinton supporters, the 2008 Democratic primary seems like yesterday, when they watched Clinton and Obama battle in state after state, month after month.

In a race in which every delegate counted, frustration grew for many reasons as they saw Obama gain advantages and delegates in Texas and other states. Their dissatisfaction culminated in May 2008, when they say a Democratic National Committee rules panel unjustly parceled out delegates from Michigan and Florida to Obama.

"We considered it violation and piracy," Bower said. "That is when PUMA was born."

Officials with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee say that the delegate decision was not preordained to benefit Obama and that rules were "followed and interpreted fairly."

Most PUMA members left the Democratic Party, even though they continued to support Clinton, and many voted for Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the general election. Many remain independents, asserting that Obama was "selected, not elected."

"There was a lot of really ill will when we saw somebody totally take votes away from one person and give it to another," said Linda Brooks of Arlington, who supported Clinton in 2008 and considers herself an independent. "We are not going to get over that.

"There are a lot of us out there [even though] they pretend we don't exist."

PUMA has long been criticized for supporting McCain and his vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, especially since Clinton asked her own backers to vote for Obama.

Texas' role

Texas will long be remembered for giving Clinton the popular vote in the 2008 Democratic primary but giving Obama more delegates through the caucus process.

Texas Democrats have an unusual way of choosing presidential delegates, a two-tier system that awards delegates through a popular vote and postelection caucuses.

Known as the "Texas Two-Step," the process came under national scrutiny in 2008. After the polls closed, delegates statewide showed up in such large numbers that they essentially overwhelmed the system.

Stories circulated that precinct captains were intimidated, that Clinton and Obama supporters went at one another, and that some facilities simply closed, leaving voters to caucus outside in the dark.

Ultimately, at the party's state convention, Obama wound up with slightly more delegates through the caucus system.

"It's still very raw for a majority of us," Bower said. "The caucus system in Texas left many Hillary supporters frustrated and angry. It was a bad scene."

Texas Democrats declined to change the system during their 2010 state convention.

2012 ticket

There have been whispers for years about the possibility of moving Clinton into the vice presidential post and switching Biden to secretary of state. Some say it's just wishful thinking by Clinton supporters.

"It isn't only die-hard Clinton supporters and it isn't a matter of not liking or respecting Joe Biden," political consultant Peter D. Rosenstein recently wrote in a column. "But rather it is recognizing the outside possibility that there could be a need to create more excitement around the ticket if it isn't ahead in the polls and on a track to victory as the convention approaches.

"Even those who don't want this kind of discussion to continue must understand the kind of excitement that would be created by putting Hillary on the ticket would be like nothing we have seen in years," he wrote. "No one should ever forget that Hillary got 18 million votes in the primaries and since then her polling has only gone up."

Supporters say this plan might bring some Democrats back into the fold. More than 20 percent of Clinton primary supporters voted for McCain in the general election, according to data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project processed by Model Politics.

Following LBJ?

Some PUMAs hope that Obama will follow in Lyndon B. Johnson's footsteps and not seek the Democratic presidential nomination this year.

"The only way to make this right is if [Obama] would step aside, encourage her to run and she would accept it ... and take her rightful place on the ballot," Brooks said. "Really, we feel like she won" in 2008.

"We're not over it."

Supporters continue to encourage voters to write Clinton's name on the ballot as a presidential nominee. And online petitions urge her to run for president.

"Your leadership is what this country needs at this crucial time in our nation's history," one says. "In your heart, Madam Secretary, you know you are the only one with the experience and stature enough to lead this nation through its most difficult hour.

"We ask you to accept this challenge."

Lately, some have also suggested teaming GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and Clinton through an alternative third party, Americans Elect, that plans to use the Internet to field a presidential ticket in 2012.

Clinton supporters say they'll be watching to see how party nominations play out this year.

"No matter what happens in 2012, all of us are in agreement about Hillary Clinton in 2016," Bower said. "I think even people who weren't Hillary fans are now. She's been the jewel in [Obama's] crown and I think all Democrats can see that now.

"If she wants it, I think 2016 is hers for the taking."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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