June 5, 2008 — -- Ending her historic, hard fought bid to become the Democratic party's first woman presidential nominee, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will announce Saturday, surrounded by supporters, that she is conceding to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Her email to supporters, sent out overnight, said it all: "I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise."
Late Wednesday night the Clinton campaign confirmed Clinton will be hosting an event in Washington, D.C., Saturday, "to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity."
Thousands have been invited by the Clinton campaign to a yet-to-be-determined site -- everyone from people who gave her campaign $5 to multimillionaires.
Clinton supporters have begun an arm-twisting campaign to get Obama to pick Clinton as his vice-presidential candidate.
Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a prominent Clinton confidant, said in an interview that she was 'absolutely ready' to talk to Obama about the No. 2 slot and would take it if offered.
Obama announced Wednesday he had tapped three people, including President John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, to lead his search for a vice presidential nominee.
The question is whether Obama will ask Clinton to join his ticket.
"I think it's very important for me to meet with her and talk to her about how we move this party forward," Obama told ABC's Charlie Gibson Wednesday. "My main goal is to make sure that the party is unified."
However former President Jimmy Carter has said he thinks an Obama-Clinton ticket is a bad idea.
In an interview with the British newspaper the Guardian, former President Jimmy Carter said "I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates."
"If you take that 50% who just don't want to vote for Clinton," Carter said, "and add it to whatever element there might be who don't think Obama is white enough or old enough or experienced enough or because he's got a middle name that sounds Arab, you could have the worst of both worlds."
Obama has wasted little time in putting his mark on the Democratic Party. -- the Democratic National Committee will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists and PACs, in keeping with Obama's well-publicized policy.
Instead of ending her campaign and offering her support to Obama when he won the party's nomination Tuesday night, Clinton said she would take a few days to think about her next move.
She spent much of the day Wednesday on the telephone speaking with members of Congress and superdelegates on Capitol Hill.
But some of her most loyal backers had begun to publicly urge her to exit the race and unify the Democratic Party behind Obama.
"Unless she has some good reasons -- which I can't think of -- I really think we ought to get on with endorsements [of Obama] and dealing with what we have to deal with ... so we can move forward," Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., told ABC News' Kate Snow.
But Rangel said he's not sure the vice presidency is what Clinton is after.
"The fact that she said that she would be willing to serve as vice president doesn't necessarily mean that she's seeking the vice president's job," Rangel said.
Obama attended a glitzy, star-studded New York fundraiser Wednesday night as Clinton's top donors prepared to take their wallets to Obama's campaign.
Now that it's become clear that Clinton will concede the nomination, donors feel no ethical obligation to stand by her any longer.
Clinton finance chair Hassan Nemazee said Obama's team had been appropriately in contact.
"They have been extremely appropriate in being non-aggressive and allowing the process to play itself through, and that, in and of itself, is helpful in the process," he said.
Coincidentally, tomorrow night Nemazee will have dinner with one of his Obama finance counterparts.
The Obama fundraiser bet Nemazee that Clinton's camp would not be able to raise $25 million dollars in the month of February. They raised $35 million.
"We made a bet, I won my bet. Dinner was scheduled a month ago," Nemazee said.
Clinton made an emotional visit to her staff at her campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va. Wednesday -- just after most of them had been told they would no longer have to report to work after Friday.
The Clinton adviser said the candidate spoke to her staff and with her core team, and then talked to groups of superdelegates.
A campaign staff member who was in the room said Clinton invited all of her campaign staff to come to her Washington, D.C., home on Friday.
Before Clinton arrived, the staff was told that they would be paid through June 15.
But the bulk of the people working for her campaign were told their last day of work would be Friday. Another source, who was not in the room, but heard about the visit, said junior staffers were emotional and some were crying.
As Clinton left her headquarters, she waved to cameras outside.
Clinton and Obama bumped into each other Wednesday morning after they each delivered speeches at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C.
Obama campaign spokesperson Linda Douglass characterized it as a "brief encounter in the hallway" and a "chance encounter," but said she didn't know if they spoke.
There was no public pressure, from Obama's campaign, on Clinton to formally exit the race. "She has a right to proceed from here as she chooses," Douglass said.
Eager for the party to unify behind Obama, Democratic leaders released a joint statement Wednesday morning, urging all remaining uncommitted superdelegates to announce their decisions by Friday.
"Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election," reads the letter, signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Governors Association Chairman Joe Manchin and DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
Speaking Wednesday to the pro-Israel lobby group, Obama praised the former first lady and thanked his supporters.
"We had an eventful night last night, and my staff and I may be still a little bleary-eyed, but we have a number of supporters in this room and we are very grateful for them," Obama told a crowd of 7,000 people gathered at the AIPAC conference.
Of Clinton, he said, "She has made history alongside of me over the last 16 months."
In a sign Clinton was coming to terms with Obama's win, Clinton praised him to the Jewish crowd.
"It has been an honor to contest these primaries with him. It is an honor to call him my friend. And let me be very clear: I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel," she said.
"And let me underscore that I believe we need a Democratic president in the White House," Clinton said.
Not waiting for any dust to settle on Obama's Democratic nomination victory, presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Wednesday challenged Obama to a series of debates.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Baton Rogue, La., McCain said he sent Obama a letter proposing a series of debates -- 10 in all, once a week starting as soon as June 12. That number of debates is two or three times more than general election candidates have held in recent years.
"I don't think we need any big media-run production, no process question from reporters, no spin rooms," McCain said. "Just two Americans running for office in the greatest nation on Earth, responding to the questions of the people whose trust we must earn."
The Obama campaign said the idea of joint town hall meetings instead of traditional debates is "appealing," but deferred on making a firm commitment.
"We would recommend a format that is less structured and lengthier than the McCain campaign suggests, one that more closely resembles the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas," reads a statement from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
"But, having just secured our party's nomination, this is one of the many items we will be addressing in the coming days, and look forward to discussing it with the McCain campaign."
Obama, Wednesday, said he needed to correct some "willful mischaracterizations" that McCain made about his positions in his own speech at the AIPAC conference earlier in the week.
McCain has regularly blasted Obama over his response at a CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate last summer that he would be willing as president to meet with leaders of rogue nations, including Iran, "without precondition."
"Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking," Obama said at the AIPAC conference.
"But, as president of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing -- if, and only if, it can advance the interests of the United States," he said, noting there would first have to be "careful preparation" to "open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress."
In an effort to assure the Jewish crowd, Obama declared an "unshakeable commitment to Israel's security.
"Let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally, Israel," he said.
Citing e-mails that have been circulating throughout some American Jewish communities, erroneously saying that he is a Muslim, or unfriendly to Israel, Obama attempted to correct the record.
"They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for president. And all I want to say is -- let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening," Obama joked. "But if anyone has been confused by these e-mails, I want you to know that, today I'll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel."
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Eileen Murphy, Matt Jaffe, Ron Claiborne, and Bret Hovell contributed to this report.