Unity is the name of the game as delegates focus on ousting Bush

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The Independent US

With the American public so sharply and evenly divided about the upcoming election, the delegates at the Democratic Convention are making great efforts to put on a united front.

With the American public so sharply and evenly divided about the upcoming election, the delegates at the Democratic Convention are making great efforts to put on a united front.

The 5,000 or so delegates in Boston are John Kerry's foot-soldiers. They are the men and women who must go home on Friday and do everything they can in their communities to work for the Massachusetts' Senator. Some of them did not vote for Mr Kerry in the primary elections and "belong" to other candidates but with less than 100 days until the election the name of the game this week has been unity.

"There is a deep feeling of unity. People feel we are all in this together," said Betsy Scanlin, 56, one of the 21 delegates from Montana. "The [Congressman Dennis] Kucinich people are important because he was so eloquent about peace. Kerry can do that and we must not lose those people to Ralph Nader. I voted for Kerry because I think he is eminently qualified and eminently electable."

It would be strange, of course, if Democrats here were playing up their differences rather than those issues they share. But convention veterans say that with just a few exceptions they have noticed very little dissent and infighting this year, something that has not always been the case among Democrats.

Much of that is a result of the disciplined convention management that has done everything from checking the speeches of speakers as senior as former vice-president Al Gore to ensure they are on message, to making sure they are enough flags saying "We love Teresa" for people to wave when Mrs Heinz Kerry addressed the crowds. An edict that speakers should not be too overtly critical of Mr Bush has also been largely obeyed.

Delegates insist that the unity inside the "Forbidden City", as the Fleet Convention Centre has become known, comes from a shared primary goal - getting rid of Mr Bush. "We are determined as a party to reclaim the White House from what has been done by the Bush administration," said Ellie Souza, 60, a delegates from New Bedford, Massachusetts, as she sat in the lobby of a hotel on Boston's Copley Square.

"For the first time I can remember, I feel we are united - this has been has been the effect of Patriot Act, immigration and the war in Iraq."

But some delegates said their support for Mr Kerry did not represent a blank cheque for the candidate. A few yards from the hotel lobby, Anne Del Prado, 50, a delegate from near Houston, Texas, was attending a peace rally. Mrs Del Prado had voted in the primaries for Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who addressed the convention yesterday, because of his strident opposition to the war in Iraq and the continued presence there of US troops.

"We knew it was going to come to this. We now have to make the best of it," she said. "But if Kerry does not adopt peace we are going to campaign for another candidate four years from now."

Some supporters of Mr Kucinich - who only released his 67 delegates on Tuesday after he formally announced his support for Mr Kerry - have even threatened not to vote for the Senator during today's formal nomination process and highlight their opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

"We're still trying to make room for our voice," Anne Fournier, a Kucinich delegate from Colorado, told the Congressional Quarterly newsletter.

Whether or not these "rebels" go ahead with their threatened action remains to be seen. Given the sense of mission expressed by many delegates here in Boston, the handful of Kucinich supporters may yet decide to vote for Mr Kerry, despite his 2002 Senate vote giving Mr Bush authority to go to war.

Carmen Stone, a delegate from Silicon Valley, California, who was attending her second Democratic convention, said: "Let's get back our country. We are here to get the hype and get energised and go back home and do the hard work."