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NYS Dem. Party Chair June O'Neill
NYS Dem. Party Chair June O'Neill

State Democrats prep for national convention: "get behind Obama and push"

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The race for President continues to tighten in New York. A new Siena College poll shows Democrat Barack Obama leading Republican John McCain 47-39%, down from 50-37% in July and 51-33% in June. But state Democratic Party chair June O'Neill says it's early days yet. She agrees with what pollster Steven Greenberg said as he released the numbers yesterday: "Certainly the dynamic in the race will change with the two conventions." Not to mention the selections of vice presidential running mates. The Democratic National Convention is next week. New York's junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, will have her name placed in nomination at the convention. She'll get a roll call vote. She'll also have a major speaking role at the convention, as will her husband, former President Bill Clinton. That after a bitter, and bitterly disappointing, primary campaign against Barack Obama. New York will send 281 voting delegates to the convention. Alternates bring that number up to 320; with families and friends, the total New York contingent is in the 650 range. That's the count from June O'Neill. As state chair, her role is part party whip, part travel agent. Martha Foley spoke with her during a lull, in her backyard in Morley, a rural hamlet on the edge of Canton.

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Extended story summary:

New York State Democratic Party Chair June O'Neill says that all Democrats must stand behind Senator Barack Obama, despite any remaining bitterness over his presumed win over Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

"My advice to any of [Clinton's] ardent supporters is listen to what she tells you. She wants to help Barack Obama get elected. We need to all get behind and push," O'Neill said.

Clinton's name will be formally entered into nomination at the Democratic National Convention, taking place August 25-28 in Denver.

Clinton's supporters should be appeased with her role in the convention, which includes her name entered into nomination, and her speaking role at the convention, O'Neill said.

As the Democratic Party leader for New York, O'Neill did not always expect that Barack Obama would be the presumptive Democratic nominee.

"I was obviously an early and ardent supporter of our senator, Hillary Clinton," O'Neill said.

"But we are all very much focused now on the bottom line, which is that John McCain will not be the next president of the United States," she said.

The primary process was a long battle that yielded positive results for the Democratic Party, according to O'Neill.

"Out of it all came a new energy, a new momentum for the Democratic Party across the country," O'Neill said.

Recent polls have shown Barack Obama just below the 50 percent line in voter preference, against John McCain. O'Neill says that different polls show different numbers for the candidates.

"What hasn't changed is that people are really excited about the fact that we have a candidate who can really beat John McCain," O'Neill said.

"I think the notion that [Obama] has somehow lost momentum or has been flat is partly because there was so much focus and energy in the primaries. We're in a calm before the storm right now, between the end of the primary season and the conventions. I think it's a natural pause," O'Neill said.

O'Neill predicts a big bump for Obama in polls following the convention.

"The convention is the next logical big burst of energy. I think when people see Senator Obama accept the nomination at Invesco Field a little over a week from now, with 75,000 people, I think he's going to come out of the convention with an even bigger boost than candidates typically get, despite the fact that the Republican convention comes right on our heels, and they will try to steal some of that thunder," O'Neill said.

The New York delegation going to Denver is the second-largest in the country, behind California. The state will send 281 voting delegates, and a total of 650 people, including family and alternate delegates.

Summary provided by Julie Schindall, National Editor, Public Interactive.

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