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Obama gains fresh Democratic support

June 4, 2008 8:29:12 AM PDT
Barack Obama picked up fresh support Wednesday from fellow Democrats eager for party unity after a bruising battle for the presidential nomination, at the same time he criticized Republican rival John McCain for supporting a "plan for staying, not a plan for victory" in Iraq. "Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran, it is precisely what strengthened it," the Illinois senator said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in which he vowed solidarity with the Jewish state.

He spoke on the morning after becoming the first black ever to win a major party presidential nomination - an accomplishment that drew Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's attention.

"The United States of America is an extraordinary country. It is a country that has overcome many, many, now years, decades, actually a couple of centuries of trying to make good on its principles," said Rice, the first female black secretary of state in history, serving in a Republican administration.

"And I think what we are seeing is an extraordinary expression of the fact that 'We the people' is beginning to mean to all of us."

Obama spoke as two fellow senators swung behind him after remaining neutral throughout his long nominating battle with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"We have a nominee of our party," said Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. "The nominee of our party is obviously Barack Obama." Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado also announced his endorsement.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who had been a Clinton supporter, announced he was backing Obama.

It hardly mattered in terms of delegate math - after months of struggle, Obama had more than enough to prevail at the party convention in Denver in August.

But Mondale, Harkin, Salazar and others poised to endorse Obama later in the day were also sending a message to Clinton that her race is over, whether she will admit it or not.

The former first lady has yet to concede defeat in the primary campaign, although she is courting an invitation from Obama to become his vice presidential running mate.

Clinton followed Obama to the podium at AIPAC, delivering a strong defense of Israel - and also of her rival in the nominating race.

"Let me be very clear. I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel," she said to applause.

Clinton herself made no mention of the question on the minds of Democrats everywhere - her future plans.

But others were not as reticent.

"I think a lot of her supporters would like to see her on the ticket," said her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe said.

"There is no deal in the works," said Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs. Nor, evidently was there yet a plan for a meeting that Obama has been trying to arrange since Sunday.

"When the dust settles and it makes sense for her, he'll meet whenever she wants to," Gibbs said. "She's accumulated a lot of votes throughout this country. We want to make sure that we're appealing to her voters."


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