Obama faces tough task healing rift with women

Published on SFgate, by Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer, June 6, 2008.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s final bow on the 2008 Democratic primary stage Saturday will officially give her longtime rival, Sen. Barack Obama, the undisputed starring role in the party’s presidential election drama.

But she still holds a key to Obama’s biggest challenge – winning over Clinton’s loyal supporters, including millions of female voters who remain resistant, even hostile, to his candidacy.

“I don’t know if it will be neat and easy,” said Simon Rosenberg, who heads NDN – formerly the New Democrat Network – a powerful party advocacy group based in Washington. “He’ll have to work hard, and there needs to be enthusiastic outreach to the Clinton base. It’s not an automatic.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was a high-profile supporter of the New York senator in the snows of Iowa and small towns in Indiana, spoke Thursday of the sensitivity required in the coming days as her followers – some of whom dedicated more than a year to her cause – come to grips with reality. “Everyone’s going through a mourning phase … it’s going to take some time,” he said …

… Longtime Clinton friends said they are confident the former first lady will – as she often has – rise to the challenge of what her party needs.

“She is a gracious person. She’s not vindictive – and those of us who’ve known her believe it will absolutely happen, no question,” said longtime Clinton friend Martha Whetstone. “She knows she has to get on board.” (full text).

(E-mail Carla Marinucci).

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