Li’l Rhody delegates watch DNC – from a distance

Saturday, August 30, 2008

DENVER – Myrth York, a three-time candidate for governor in Rhode Island, is one of the Clinton delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver who has switched her support to Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Despite a few remaining devotees of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the convention succeeded in giving the Democratic party a sense of community necessary for it to see victory this November, she said.

But Rhode Island’s delegation of 33 was on the outskirts of this community as they were stationed high on the far left of the floor.

“At first I thought maybe Rhode Island was a territory,” Jennifer Paolino ’06 MA’07 said jokingly, noting the placement of the American Samoa and Virgin Islands delegations closer to the stage.

But York, who has been to the DNC three times before this, was not surprised about the location. “In the four conventions I’ve been to we’ve never had great seats.”

The party leaders’ confidence that Rhode Island’s few electoral votes will go to Obama come November might contribute to its less-than-premium seating, according to York.

“You can notice the bigger or uncertain states have seats closer to the front and center,” York said.

Nevertheless Paolino, a Clinton delegate and daughter of former Providence mayor Joe Paolino, , like York, that the convention had been a success.

“I think we’re all going to leave Denver ready to rally together as a party in Providence,” she said.

Like Paolino and York, Patricia Flanagan, associate professor of pediatrics, changed her support from Clinton to Obama.

Flanagan watched her husband participate as a delegate at the 2004 DNC. She became excited about Clinton’s campaign this year and became one of the 13 delegates from the state pledged to Clinton.

But Clinton failed to win the nomination, and Flanagan said she now gives her full support to the Democratic nominee.

“I am very excited about him becoming the next president. I think he’s a very strong candidate,” she said. “I think he really has the qualities the country needs to really refocus and get our priorities straight.”

York said Clinton delegates who do not yet support Obama will likely change their mind.

“There’s a handful of Clinton delegates who still aren’t on board with Obama,” she said. “That’s one that will change because the stakes are so clear and high. But there are still a few people who are disappointed.”

York thinks that in order to change the minds of those dedicated Clinton delegates and keep those supporters that it already has, the party needs to continue to emphasize the differences between Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, as Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware did with respect to foreign policy in his vice-presidential nomination acceptance speech on Wednesday night.

“The fact is, in terms of judgment on foreign policy issues, Obama has been right and Bush and McCain have been wrong, and the Bush administration is starting to come around,” she said. “People need to understand it’s a matter of judgment and Obama’s judgment is far superior.”

Despite her initial candidate of preference not becoming the nominee and the delegation’s distant seat assignment, Flanagan enjoyed the convention for its speeches and the opportunities to meet new people and be a part of the nomination process.

“It has been tremendous – very exciting,” she said.