Democrats let Clinton appear as 'nominee' as they still seek unity

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Even though she narrowly lost the presidential nomination to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton's name will be formally placed in nomination at this month's Democratic convention in Denver, under a deal announced by the two campaigns last night to heal the persisting divisions within the party.

The move is intended to be "recognition of the historic race she [Hillary Clinton] ran", as the first woman to compete in every single primary and caucus vote. More important, it resolves – in theory at least – one of the major unknowns at the convention, and may defuse the continuing resentment of many Clinton supporters, convinced she was a victim of sexism during the campaign.

The roll call vote on Mrs Clinton, which she is bound to lose, is purely symbolic. It will take place on the convention's penultimate evening. Immediately afterwards she is expected to release her delegates to her rival and pledge her support for the Illinois senator, the first African-American nominee of a major party.

The gesture underscores the vital need for Mr Obama to nail down the backing of women and poorer whites who flocked to Mrs Clinton during the primaries, and whose votes are essential if he is to win the White House. Some have entered the Obama camp.

Other diehard Clinton supporters, still smarting from defeat in the primary campaign, are planning a virtual "parallel" convention in Denver, complete with a flier campaign throughout the city and a special blogging centre. They will also hold a reception on the Tuesday evening that the former first lady speaks at the convention.

Even that prime-time slot had disappointed some of her followers. It is unlikely she will be her rival's vice-presidential choice. But Mrs Clinton was not even granted the consolation prize of the keynote speech, the platform which launched Mr Obama into national orbit at the 2004 Boston convention.

This time the honour has gone to the former Virginia governor Mark Warner, a contender for a Senate seat from a swing state Mr Obama hopes to wrest from the Republicans in November. Instead, the rollcall vote is meant to be the "cathartic" moment Clinton supporters demand.

But if one point of friction has been removed, another remains. Bill Clinton, who still cannot conceal his anger that his wife was defeated, has issued only the most tepid of endorsements for Mr Obama.