Obama, Clinton appeal together for Dem unity

Published 2:10 pm Friday, June 27, 2008

UNITY, N.H. (AP) — Rivals turned allies, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton made a display of unity Friday in a hamlet named for it, their first joint public appearance since the divisive Democratic primary race ended.

“Unity is not only a beautiful place as we can see, it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? And I know when we start here in this field in Unity, we’ll end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president,” Clinton said just after she and Obama took the stage together.

In turn, Obama praised both Clinton and her husband, President Clinton, as allies and pillars of the Democratic Party, saying: “We need them. We need them badly. Not just my campaign, but the American people need their service and their vision and their wisdom in the months and years to come because that’s how we’re going to bring about unity in the Democratic Party. And that’s how we’re going to bring about unity in America.”

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Moments earlier, the two snaked their way through some 6,000 people who gathered in a wide-open field and overflowed some bleacher seats in this town of 1,700. It was a carefully chosen venue in a key general election battleground state: Unity awarded exactly 107 votes to each candidate in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary in January.

The appearance capped a turbulent Democratic primary season and tense post-race transition as the two went from foes to friends — at least publicly. This was the most visible event in a series of gestures the two senators have made over the past week to heal the hard feelings — between themselves as well as among their backers — born from the acrimonious nomination fight. Both were mindful of the need for the entire Democratic Party to swing behind Obama as he faces Republican John McCain in the general election.

Clinton encouraged her supporters to join with his “to create an unstoppable force for change we can all believe in.” She addressed any of her backers who are considering not voting or voting for McCain instead of Obama: “I strongly urge you to reconsider.”

“I know that he’ll work for you. He’ll fight for you, and he’ll stand up for you every single day in the White House,” Clinton said, calling Obama “a leader who invests in our future.”

She noted that the Arizona senator and the GOP probably hoped she wouldn’t join forces with Obama.

“But I’ve got news for them: We are one party; we are one America, and we are not going to rest until we take back our country and put it once again on the path to peace, prosperity and progress in the 21st century,” Clinton said to cheers.

Wasting little time pressing Obama’s case, Clinton said McCain offered nothing more than a continuation of President Bush’s policies.

“In the end, Senator McCain and President Bush are like two sides of the same coin, and it doesn’t amount to a whole lot of change,” Clinton said. “If you think we need a new course, a new agenda, then vote for Barack Obama and you will get the change that you need and deserve.”

As she spoke from a podium, Obama sat next to her on a stool, coatless with his white shirt sleeves rolled up. His comments were equally warm when it was his turn to speak.

“For 16 months, Senator Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals for the nomination, but today I could not be happier and more honored and more moved that we’re sharing this stage as allies to bring about the fundamental changes that this country so desperately needs,” Obama said. “Hillary and I may have started with separate goals in this campaign, but we made history together.”

“I’ve admired her as a leader, I’ve learned from her as a candidate. She rocks. She rocks. That’s the point I’m trying to make,” Obama said in response to cheers from the crowd.