Clinton, Obama Begin Democratic Unity Dance
Clinton pushes for Democratic unity in closed-door meeting today on the Hill.
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2008 — -- Sen. Hillary Clinton urged her former supporters to back Sen. Barack Obama and touted Democratic unity in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Calling it a make-or-break election, Clinton vowed that she is totally onboard to help elect Obama, her former bitter primary rival, to the presidency.
"I am 100 percent committed to doing everything I possibly can to make sure that Sen. Obama is sworn in as the next president of the United States next January here in this Capitol," Clinton told reporters on Capitol Hill.
It's the first of several orchestrated events this week designed to show Democrats that the two are reconciling. Clinton will also attend an Obama fundraiser at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington Thursday and campaign with Obama for the first time in the small town of Unity, N.H., Friday.
Clinton's remarks followed a 25-minute closed-door meeting she had Wednesday with House Democrats. In the hallway outside, applause was heard several times coming from the gathering.
Also appearing at a brief news conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she told her fellow Democrats that "Senator Clinton has emerged from this election the most respected political figure in America, for now and for a long time."
Clinton said she was very much looking forward to campaigning with Obama Friday in New Hampshire.
When asked about whether her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would also campaign for Obama, Clinton responded, "he has said he will do whatever he can and whatever he's asked to do."
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., an early supporter of Clinton's, said Clinton's speech went a long way to heal the Democratic Party.
"It really was a unifying speech," she said, "If the Democratic party is a rope, then her speech just added more ties that bind us together."
The congresswoiman said Clinton will play "an absolutely pivotal role" in getting people who voted for her to vote for Obama.
Offering an olive branch to Clinton and her supporters Tuesday, Obama asked his top contributors to help retire her more than $10 million in outstanding vendor debt, ABC News' Jake Tapper first reported Tuesday.
Clinton's debt has been a major point of contention as the two former rivals attempt to reconcile.
Her debt is estimated to exceed $22 million, including more than $11 million in personal loans she made to her campaign, and the reported $4.6 million she owes pollster and ex-Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who is controversial in many Democratic circles.
On Friday, the Obama campaign has scheduled a campaign event with Clinton located in the symbolically named New Hampshire town of Unity, population 1,600.
The two candidates received exactly the same number of votes in the town during the Democratic primary in January — 107 votes apiece.
"We're a small community, and this is a major event in our town," said Willard Hathaway, the town's chairman of the Board of Selectmen, which acts as the town council.