Denver (AP) - As Democrats try to mollify disappointed supporters of Hillary Clinton, Republicans pushed the theme Monday that Democrats are divided and open to voting for John McCain.
To try to cement the point, the Republican National Committee's Denver "war room" presented a trio of Clinton supporters and a former Democratic congressman, each of whom is supporting McCain.
"He is a true statesman who will always put the country first," said Tim Penney a former Democratic congressman from Minnesota, now an independent. "With Obama, we have words; with McCain, we have deeds. With Obama, we have rhetoric; with McCain, we have a record."
The event - the first of daily GOP news conferences aimed at injecting the McCain campaign into the media's convention narrative - featured Debra Bartoshevich, a Clinton delegate from Wisconsin who was stripped of her status as a delegate after announcing she would vote for McCain in November.
"During the primary, I was a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton," Bartoshevich told reporters. "Sen. Obama is not ready to lead this nation."
Bartoshevich said she's talked to other Clinton delegates who will support McCain in the fall but who are not ready to go public in order to avoid being stripped of their delegate status as well.
More strident was Cynthia Ruccia, a longtime Democratic activist, hard-core Clinton supporter from Ohio. Her attraction to McCain seemed to have more to do with being angry at the Obama campaign's treatment of Clinton than much agreement with McCain on the issues.
"I am totally disgusted with the Democratic Party," Ruccia said. "They were willing to throw women completely under the bus. ... I just couldn't believe the treatment that Hillary Clinton got."
The message was reinforced by media reports of continuing tensions between the Obama and Clinton camps.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a key Clinton supporter this spring, discounted reports of lingering rifts.
"There may be a few outliers, but ... overall there is going to be tremendous unity and Hillary is going to be leading the charge," Schumer said. "I've talked to her privately."
The GOP effort isn't likely to have much impact on Clinton delegates. Several of them said they were unhappy McCain was using their "family fight" against Obama, particularly in an ad released Sunday about Clinton being passed over as the vice presidential nominee.
"It makes me sad that McCain is using it against us," said Pam Durham, a Clinton delegate from Fort Worth, Texas, who has not yet embraced Obama. "It may unite our party against the outsider. ... What he said was the truth, but it may unite us against him."
Daniel Kagan, a Clinton delegate from Colorado, said he plans to vote for Obama in the general election, but he won't be volunteering for the campaign.
"John McCain is trying to make political hay out of an internal dispute," Kagan said.
The GOP Monday released an ad featuring Bartoshevich, who tells Democrats "It's OK, really!" to vote for McCain.
The McCain campaign reached out to Bartoshevich soon after Clinton suspended her campaign. The candidate himself clinched her support in a late July meeting in Racine.
As Democrats try to mollify disappointed supporters of Hillary Clinton, Republicans pushed the theme Monday that Democrats are divided and open to voting for John McCain.