Hillary Clinton gave a good effort in trying to close the sale for Barack Obama last night in the convention’s most anticipated speech.  According to the Washington Post’s Eli Saslow, it had a big impact on her delegates, but perhaps not what she or Obama anticipated.  Instead of inspiring them to join the Obama bandwagon, most of them pointed to the speech to show what the Democrats had lost in Hillary’s defeat:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most loyal delegates came to the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night looking for direction. They listened, rapt, to a 20-minute speech that many proclaimed the best she had ever delivered, hoping her words could somehow unwind a year of tension in the Democratic Party. But when Clinton stepped off the stage and the standing ovation faded into silence, many of her supporters were left with a sobering realization: Even a tremendous speech couldn’t erase their frustrations. …

Despite Clinton’s plea for Democrats to unite, her delegates remained divided as to how they should proceed.

There was Jerry Straughan, a professor from California, who listened from his seat in the rafters and shook his head at what he considered the speech’s predictability. “It’s a tactic,” he said. “Who knows what she really thinks? With all the missteps that have taken place, this is the only thing she could do. So, yes, I’m still bitter.” …

Clinton’s performance fell far short of the panacea the Democratic Party had desperately hoped for, delegates said. Some worried that, after Clinton’s public withdrawal, more voters might defect for Republican John McCain or simply stay home. …

“I hate Obama so much that I’m going to devote as much time to McCain as I did to Hillary,” said Adita Blanco, a Democrat from Edward, Okla., who has never voted for a Republican. “Obama has nothing. He has no experience. The Democratic Party doesn’t care about us. You couldn’t treat [Clinton] any worse.”

In a way, this couldn’t work out better for Hillary.  She gets credit for being a good soldier with a speech that supported Obama even if it didn’t exactly praise him.  If Obama wins in November, Hillary will also get credit for her unifying speech, and she can still run in 2016 (at 69 years old).  If Obama loses, no one can point to this speech and blame her for it — and she’s set to run in 2012 after a first John McCain term.

Saslow reports on a more significant show of disunity from the Clinton delegation.  Several of Hillary’s advisers have seen the inside of the Pepsi Center for the last time.  According to his report, many of the delegates may follow after today, rather than sit through more Barack Obama celebrations, bitter over the results of the primaries and the selection of Joe Biden as running mate.  They have to stick around for the roll-call vote, but after that, many may head for the exits.

Watch the crowds in the Pepsi Center on Thursday.  Count the empty seats in the arena before Obama gives his Invesco Field acceptance speech.  The more empty seats you see, the more the unity attempt failed.

As it has always been, the real responsibility for unity rests with Barack Obama.  He has strangely resisted assuming that responsibility, telling Hillary supporters that he was too busy to worry about it and that they should just “get over it”.  If he doesn’t take this opportunity to handle his own business, he may not get another.