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Senators urged to back Clinton for new role

Even with the presidency out of reach, Hillary Clinton loyalists still want her elected Senate majority leader.

The faithful surround Hillary Clinton at at the Democratic convention.
The faithful surround Hillary Clinton at at the Democratic convention.

WASHINGTON // The Hillary Clinton diehards are still at it. Even with the presidency and vice presidency out of reach and despite Mrs Clinton's full-throated endorsement of Barack Obama at last week's Democratic National Convention, a contingent of her most passionate loyalists are still pushing for her to be elected - this time as Senate majority leader. The founders of "Hillary Rodham Clinton for Senate Majority Leader 2009," or "HRC4SML" for short, plan to send a letter to every Democratic senator and senatorial candidate this year imploring them to elect Mrs Clinton to the leadership role, which is held by Harry Reid, a veteran senator from Nevada. No matter that the junior senator from New York has not declared her candidacy for the job. "Most of us feel that she won the presidential contest, and this is the best way of honouring the presidential candidate who got more votes than any other candidate in history," said Will Bower, a steadfast supporter who is leading the charge to land Mrs Clinton atop the Senate. Mrs Clinton won approximately 17.8 million votes in the primary compared to Mr Obama's 17.5 million, but Mr Obama finished with slightly more delegates. Mr Bower, a blogger who lives in Washington, DC, is cofounder of the notorious Puma Coalition, which stands for Political Unity My A** and is made up of former supporters of Mrs Clinton who refuse to vote for Mr Obama. (A pro-Clinton group by the same acronym - standing for People United Means Action - also exists.) "This is actually one of the most positive ways of moving forward," Mr Bower said. He plans to stay home on election day rather than vote for Mr Obama or Mr McCain. "We think Hillary Clinton would probably be one of the best Senate majority leaders we have ever had," he said. The Senate majority leader - or floor leader - plays a key role in advancing the party's agenda. Responsibilities include setting the legislative calendar and acting as a liaison to the White House. He - or she, though a woman has never held the post - is also the first speaker recognised on the Senate floor. The office-holder is determined in a secret ballot election during the party's caucus. Heidi-Li Feldman, one of the campaign's organisers and founder of the Denver Group, a political action committee that claims the nomination of Mr Obama was rigged, said Mrs Clinton would be a perfect candidate for the post. "Senator Clinton's national stature and popularity make her very effective for unifying the nation and guiding it in the direction that the Democratic Party and Senator Clinton herself advocate," said Ms Feldman. She felt that Mrs Clinton possessed the political savvy to work well with Republicans. It is unclear exactly how powerful the movement to install Mrs Clinton as Senate majority leader will become. As of Tuesday, a page developed for the cause on ActBlue, the grassroots fundraising website for Democrats, had generated no money. Whatever money is donated to the site will be offered to politicians who have pledged their Senate majority leader vote to Mrs Clinton, according to Ms Feldman. A law professor at Georgetown University, Ms Feldman's other fundraising activities have brought in tens of thousands of dollars.

But there is one overarching flaw with all of this logic: Mrs Clinton is not interested in the job, at least not yet. Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Mrs Clinton, quickly stamped out the notion that she would consider seeking the post. "That's not happening," Mr Reines said in an e-mail. "We already have a majority leader, and Senator Clinton looks forward to continuing to work with leader Reid next year in support of President Obama. Period." For his part, Mr Reid has no plans to step down. "Senator Reid plans on leading an expanded Senate majority well into the future," said Rodell Mollineau, the senator's communications director. And while Mrs Clinton may well harbour long-term goals of becoming the first female Senate majority leader, she is not likely to act on it now, said Darrel M West, vice president and director of governance studies at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution. "I could see her down the road being interested in that because it's a major leadership position," he said. "After a couple of more terms, she will have sufficient seniority for something like this." Mr West said the supporters of Mrs Clinton were abnormally dedicated. "When an election is over, the supporters usually give up," he said. However, that does not appear likely in Mrs Clinton's case. Activists are determined to fight, even if the rallying cry no longer comes from Mrs Clinton herself. "We'll see," Mr Bower said. "I think it's possible, and if it's possible, it's worth fighting for." sstanek@thenational.ae