Obama helps relieve Clinton debt

June 27, 2008 8:14:54 AM PDT
Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will help pay off Hillary Rodham Clinton's more than $20 million debt, personally writing a check in a gesture meant to win over her top financial backers. 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. Behind the scenes, the two sides were negotiating her future involvement with the campaign.

Some Clinton donors had been frustrated that the Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting had not done more to help her pay the bills even as they are expected to help fund his campaign.

Obama received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 200 when he said he would enlist his supporters to help pay off her debt.

"I'm going to need Hillary by my side campaigning during his election, and I'm going to need all of you," Obama said, according to a report written by the only reporter allowed into the event and shared with other reporters afterward. He recounted how he had told his top fundraisers this week "to get out their checkbooks and start working to make sure Senator Clinton - the debt that's out there needs to be taken care of."

Clinton told her donors they must make electing Obama a priority, as she acknowledged the hard feelings that remain on both sides.

"This was a hard-fought campaign," she said. "That's what made it so exciting and intense and why people's passions ran so high on both sides. I know my supporters have extremely strong feelings, and I know Barack's do as well. But we are a family, and we have an opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know what's at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to win back this White House."

Obama asked the donors for their support, but recognized their hearts may remain with the former first lady.

"I do not expect that passion to be transferred," he said.

"Senator Clinton is unique, and your relationships with her are unique."

But he added, "Senator Clinton and I at our core agree deeply that this country needs to change."