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Obama, Clinton
Appear Together, Clinton Urges Her Backers to Support
Obama

Obama, Clinton
Appear Together, Clinton Urges Her Backers to Support
Obama

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Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to mend rifts within the party on Friday after their combative primary fight, heaping praise on each other as they campaigned together in a town chosen for the symbolism of its name -- Unity. Clinton, once considered the inevitable Democratic nominee, praised her former rival for ''his grace and his grit'' and said John McCain and the Republican Party had probably hoped the two Democrats would not join forces against them in the November election. A day after introducing Obama to some of her top financial backers, Clinton encouraged her supporters to join with his ''to create an unstoppable force for change we can all believe in,'' urging those who had backed her not to vote Republican.

Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to mend rifts within the party on Friday after their combative primary fight, heaping praise on each other as they campaigned together in a town chosen for the symbolism of its name -- Unity.

Clinton, once considered the inevitable Democratic nominee, praised her former rival for ''his grace and his grit'' and said John McCain and the Republican Party had probably hoped the two Democrats would not join forces against them in the November election.

A day after introducing Obama to some of her top financial backers, Clinton encouraged her supporters to join with his ''to create an unstoppable force for change we can all believe in,'' urging those who had backed her not to vote Republican.

''To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider,'' she said.

The venue was carefully chosen in a general election battleground state. Unity awarded exactly 107 votes to each candidate in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary in January, though Clinton actually took the state.

As Clinton spoke from a podium before a crowd of 6,000, Obama sat next to her on a stool, coatless with his white shirt sleeves rolled up.

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 party to swing behind Obama as he faces McCain, a veteran senator they have both cast as offering nothing more than a continuation of George W. Bush's unpopular presidency.

Obama, who has rallied to shore up support among Clinton's backers, praised both Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, as allies and pillars of the Democratic Party.

''We need them. We need them badly,'' Obama said. ''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.''

The former first lady has taken decisive strides to strike a chord of harmony with Obama, recently speaking forcefully in support of the Illinois senator. But their nomination fight cast a pall on relations with her husband, with Obama once complaining that he was not sure whom he was running against.

Bill Clinton, through a spokesman, has said he would back Obama. But his comments have been far more subdued than those of his wife. Obama's mention of both Clintons could go a long way to smoothing over relations and winning support in a party where they retain a devoted following.

Both Democrats need one another right now as they move to the next phase of the campaign.

Obama is depending on Clinton to give her voters and donors a clear signal that she does not consider it a betrayal for them to shift their loyalty his way. Clinton won convincingly among several voter groups during the primaries, including working-class voters and older women -- groups that McCain has actively courted since she left the race.

Clinton, for her part, needs the Illinois senator's help in paying down $10 million of her campaign debt, plus an assurance that she will be treated respectfully as a top surrogate on the campaign trail and at the Democratic Party convention later this summer.

Pressing Obama's case from the start, Clinton urged any of her backers who are considering not voting, or of voting for McCain instead of Obama, to reconsider.

Mindful that he needs her backing, Obama spoke of Clinton warmly.

''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.

Meanwhile, McCain chastised Obama for claiming that his Republican rival would appoint a conservative Supreme Court that would be detrimental to women's rights.

The Hill, a political newspaper in Washington, D.C., reported Thursday that Obama made the comment last week during a private meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

''I respect Senator Obama and I admire his success, and I will conduct a respectful campaign,'' McCain said Friday after touring a General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio. ''That kind of a statement or allegation is not worthy of Senator Obama or worthy of the debate that the American people want and deserve.''

An Obama spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the report.

McCain also repeated his call for face-to-face town-hall meetings with Obama. ( AP)

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