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.
Obama Offers Clinton $10 Million Olive Branch
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.
Clinton, Obama to Appear Together in N.H.
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.
Clinton and Obama spoke by phone Sunday night — the first time the presumptive Democratic nominee and his former rival have exchanged words since their private meeting in Washington weeks ago.
Clinton and Obama discussed their joint appearances and spoke about retiring Clinton's more than $10 million in campaign debt, reported ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.
Hurt Feelings Persist Among Dems
Despite the public smiles on display this week, hurt feelings persist on both sides.
Many Obama supporters were insulted by the Clinton campaign's tactics.
Highlighting the tension, it's been three weeks since the nomination battle ended and former President Bill Clinton hasn't yet spoken to Obama. His office released a one-sentence statement from spokesman Matt McKenna Tuesday.
"President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next president of the United States," McKenna said.
The former president told PBS' Charlie Rose before the Iowa caucuses that voting for Obama is "a roll of the dice." He also said the Obama campaign "played the race card on me" after he likened Obama's South Carolina win to Jesse Jackson's in the 1980s, and publicly said Obama's opposition to the Iraq war was "a big fairy tale."
And many Clinton supporters maintain the former first lady was unfairly treated by the media, and done in by arcane Democratic Party rules that reduced the Michigan and Florida primaries to beauty contests, and gave superdelegates power over the nomination.
"The reason that there is even any question about whether the party will be unified … really goes to the historic nature of the candidacy of Senator Clinton and the depth of support she earned from her supporters, coupled with the less than ideal inherently flawed nature of a primary and concerns about the objective nature of the media's coverage of Senator Clinton," said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, an early supporter of Clinton's.
Lehane, who worked on Al Gore's 2000 and Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential bids, said Clinton supporters are beginning to fall "in line" behind Obama.
"Those Democrats, such as myself, who were proud supporters of Senator Clinton, appreciate the political axiom that first you fall in love and then you fall in line," he said. "And there is no question that Obama makes it easy to fall in line, given his talents."
After almost eight years of a Republican White House, Lehane said, Democrats will vote for Obama in November.
"The vast majority of Democrats are unified if for no other reason than George W. Bush," he said.