Robert Novak

The conventional wisdom is that women, along with other Clinton backers, will be in the Democratic camp once Clinton actually concedes. But seasoned operatives for both presidential candidates privately advise that the length and closeness of the Democratic race make reconciliation much more difficult because Clinton did not leave the race once there was no clear path to the nomination for her.

Clinton backers who will now declare full support of the nominee in public take a different position when promised that their names will not be used. They frankly question whether Obama should be president. I asked one Democrat, a longtime political worker and sometime candidate for public office, whether he actually would vote for Obama. He paused, then replied: "Let me put it this way. I would sleep better if John McCain was president."

That is the atmosphere in which Clinton has now offered herself for the vice presidency. One of her supporters, prominent in Democratic politics for nearly half a century, saw the handwriting on the wall several weeks ago and approached Obama agents to suggest a unity ticket. "There was absolutely no interest -- none at all," he told me. "They wanted no part of it."

Washington lawyer Lanny Davis, an indefatigable advocate for Bill and Hillary Clinton over the years, on his own wrote Obama Tuesday night urging him "to select Sen. Clinton in recognition of the more than 17 million Democrats who supported her at the polls." Davis also talked about a petition drive to promote that goal. The Obama camp's response was not positive.

When I asked yesterday (Wednesday) a longtime friend of the Clintons who has been neutral in the presidential race what he thought of her performance Tuesday night, he declined to answer and suggested "we should watch what she says in the next 40 to 48 hours." He surely would not welcome more pressure, trying to force herself onto the national ticket.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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