Obama, Hillary unite in White House bid (Lead)

June 28th, 2008 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 28 (IANS) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the victor and the vanquished in the Democratic presidential nomination race, came together in a carefully choreographed show aimed at returning Democrats to the White House. Obama, who would be the first black US president and the former first lady, who hoped to be the first woman chief executive, signalled the end of their long and bitter primary struggle Friday in a small town in Hampshire appropriately named Unity.

“It is fitting that we meet in a place called Unity, because the truth is, that’s the only way we can solve the challenges facing this country,” said Obama pointing to the significance of the town’s name and its primary in which he and Clinton each received the same number of votes.

“Today, we look back at the votes cast here in the snows of January not as 107 votes for Hillary Clinton and 107 votes for me but as 214 votes for change in America,” he said.

“We may have started on separate paths … today our hearts are set on the same destination for America … to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States,” said Clinton. “We are one party; we are one America.”

The two Democrats walked onstage together to U2’s song “Beautiful Day” as an enthusiastic crowd chanted: “Yes, we can!” Large signs reading “Unite For Change” and “UNITY” were held aloft throughout the outdoor rally as an enthusiastic crowd cheered Clinton and Obama.

“For 16 months, Senator Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals. … But today, I could not be happier and more honoured and more moved that we’re sharing the stage,” said Obama praising his one time adversary for helping “bring this country a new and better day.”

“I’ve learned from her as a candidate. … She rocks! She rocks! That’s the point I’m trying to make,” he joked.

The likely Democratic presidential nominee also talked about the tension the two faced during the primary season.

“Now, I don’t pretend that one election can erase all the past biases and outdated attitudes that we’re still wrestling to overcome. And I know that there have been times over the last 16 months where those biases have emerged,” he said.

“But I also know that while this campaign has shown us how far we have to go, it has also proven the progress we have made.”

The former rivals flew together from Washington. They shared a polite kiss on arrival at Reagan National Airport and sat side-by-side on the flight to New Hampshire.

Clinton campaign manager Terry McAuliffe said Friday that her team had been working to drum up support for Obama since Clinton suspended her campaign four days after the last primary on June 3 and endorsed Obama.

Asked about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket, he told CNN: “I think if she were on the ticket, I think we honestly … would control the White House for 16 years. … But Senator Obama’s got to make that decision himself.”

Obama has shied away from any talk of a possible joint ticket, although he’s said Clinton “would be on anyone’s short list.”

The way for the unity meeting was paved Thursday night in behind the scenes negotiations as Obama met with more than 200 of Clinton’s biggest fundraisers at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, the first step in a two-day push to bring her supporters onboard his general election campaign.

Obama has also asked his top contributors to help Clinton retire her campaign debt of $22 million, about $12 million of which she loaned to her own campaign. And Thursday night he his wife Michelle, each donated $2,300 to her campaign, the maximum an individual can legally give.

Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, returned the compliment Friday with each donating the maximum to Obama’s campaign.

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