Clinton stumps for Obama

June 26, 2008 4:47:59 PM PDT
Hillary Rodham Clinton lauded Barack Obama for "his grit and his grace" as she resumed campaigning Thursday to support the candidate who dashed her hopes of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. The New York senator spoke to two trade groups before an evening meeting to introduce Obama to her most loyal fundraisers.

"I am asking you to do everything you can to help elect Barack Obama," Clinton told the American Nurses Association, a 2.9-million member group that backed her candidacy. "I have debated him in more debates than I can remember and I have seen his passion and his determination and his grit and his grace. In his own life he has lived the American dream."

Clinton and Obama plan to appear together for the first time since the end of the primary on Friday in symbolic Unity, N.H. - where each got 107 votes in the state's January primary. Clinton won New Hampshire in an upset that set the stage for their long campaign, and it is now a critical battleground for the general election.

"We will be making the case for a Democratic victory in November," Clinton told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. She said every issue the group is fighting for is at risk in the campaign between Obama and Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"We have to be determined to chart a new course and we cannot do that without electing Senator Obama our president," she said. "So that is what I'm going to be working for, that is what I'm going to be fighting for."

Clinton's encouragement came 19 days after she suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama. Since then, she has stayed largely out of sight at her home in New York and on vacation in the Hamptons, with brief public appearances for journalist Tim Russert's funeral and a high school commencement address. She returned to the Senate this week, and was roundly embraced by Democratic caucus members in front of news cameras.

Obama told reporters Wednesday that he thinks she'll be extraordinarily effective in speaking for his candidacy and he'd like to have her campaigning for him as much as she can. "I think we can send Senator Clinton anywhere and she'll be effective," Obama said.

But the extent of her travel for Obama is not clear. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Wednesday that they have not scheduled any events after New Hampshire. "We don't have any specific knowledge of her schedule past Friday," Plouffe said.

An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll out Thursday shows Obama has won over slightly more than half of Clinton's former supporters. About a quarter of Clinton's backers say they will support McCain over Obama.

Obama's campaign isn't just relying on Clinton herself to persuade them to join his camp but also have been seeking help from prominent officials who backed her, like Govs. Ted Strickland of Ohio, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Strickland said Thursday that joint events "are healing steps that will pull the Clinton and Obama supporters together."

"I think for some people that were deeply involved in Senator Clinton's campaign, you know this is a time of some grieving perhaps," he said. "I have seen a coming together in this campaign that I think has happened earlier than I expected, and quite frankly, I think earlier than divisions that have occurred in primary campaigns in presidential elections past."

Clinton spoke nostalgically about her candidacy as she talked about campaigning again - this time for Obama and other Democratic candidates.

"I look forward to traveling around our country and seeing so many of you again," she told the Latino group. "We had a lot of fun in this campaign. It was hard, there were some tough times, but what I remember were all of the faces all of the people who came out to support me."

She teased the largely female nurses' group about the lingering effects of her effort to become the first woman president.

"They are among the many people who, if you look real closely at the top of their heads, you can see this little bump from trying to crack that hard glass ceiling that we were able to certainly damage but not get removed," Clinton said.