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Behind the Scenes: Women pass Clinton's torch to Obama

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  • Clinton backers say Obama will represent women's issues in White House
  • Backers are sad Clinton didn't get nomination, but won't switch to McCain
  • "I accept that and I move forward with Barack Obama," one woman says
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By Jill Dougherty
CNN
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In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Jill Dougherty attended a cocktail party Tuesday attended by Hillary Clinton supporters.

A woman tears up as Sen. Hillary Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The TV is blasting, there's guacamole and chicken wings, red wine and beer, five TV monitors and a lot of cheering. Sen. Hillary Clinton is speaking at the convention and these women, most in their 20s and several who proudly describe themselves as feminists, are listening.

The cocktail party at a downtown bar in Washington brings together the Women's Caucuses of Virginia, Maryland Young Democrats, Womens' Information Network, and D.C. political activists.

They are toasting the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed on this date 88 years ago, which gave women the right to vote.

It's also a chance to say goodbye with like-minded friends to Clinton's presidential bid.

"If [Republican Sen. John] McCain is president the next eight years, definitely the Supreme Court could shift again and not in our favor as young women," said Atima Omara, a tall African-American woman with a blinding smile, who welcomed the group of about 50 women.

"I definitely wish that, you know, on women's equality day we could be like 'Rah rah, Go Hillary Clinton!' but that didn't happen," she tells me. "And so I accept that and I move forward with Barack Obama because, looking at the two records on women's rights and just all the issues I care about, there is just no comparison between McCain and Obama." Video Watch Hillary Clinton encourage her supporters to back Obama »

Erin Hanna, president of the D.C. chapter of NOW, the National Organization for Women, admits, "I was and still am a Hillary supporter."

She called Tuesday "bittersweet."

But like most of the women in this room, she's not looking back. She tells me it's "discouraging" that some Clinton supporters might switch to McCain or even sit this election out.

"I understand how many women feel. I am devastated to this day, especially today being the 88th anniversary of women's right to vote. I would love for that nominee to be Hillary Clinton," she said. "But I have to swallow that pride and make the decision that is best for women's policies."

In another part of the room, Colleen Crinion and Bethiny Stark, both "hardcore Hillary supporters," as Bethiny puts it, don't mince words.

"If you believe in what Hillary Clinton believed in," Colleen says, punching every word, "You cannot vote for John McCain, because he doesn't stand for the same things she stood for."

Bethiny is even more emphatic. "I think it is irresponsible to vote any other way, OK. I mean -- stop acting like petty children, OK. It is bigger than that! Yes, I would have loved to have Hillary to get the nomination.... We need to look at the big picture and look at what is important than our own personal issues."

Sitting at the main table, Mary Melchior is still angry about how she says the media treated Clinton.

"As a longtime feminist," she says, "I got very angry at the way Hillary was treated in the press and it made me feel like I needed to strike out for women and vote for Hillary."

Now, Melchior is supporting Obama.

Clinton is at the podium, in a bright orange pantsuit. The women watching break out in raucous laughter when she thanks her supporters and "my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits."

But there are some tears, too. Andrea Johnson, a strong Obama supporter, says she couldn't help but be touched by Clinton's speech. "Yeah, I mean this is a big moment. This is history. There's no doubt. I have been a Barack supporter since 2006. But I've always been amazed to see Hillary do what she has done," she said.

I ask Kathleen Lam whether she thinks a woman will ever be U.S. president.

"I think Hillary Clinton's candidacy, and especially going as far as she has, has really opened a lot of doors and minds to the possibility of a female president," Lam said.

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The Democratic women I talked with this night agree: There will be a woman president someday.

Just not this time.

All About National Organization for WomenDemocratic PartyU.S. Presidential Election

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