Exclusive: Former Democratic Rivals Join Forces in Sunshine State

Exclusive: Obama tells "Nightline" former rival is "a great messenger for us."

October 20, 2008, 8:37 PM

Oct. 20, 2008— -- It was a moment many thought would never happen -- and certainly not in Florida: Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton sharing a stage in Orlando as 50,000 enthusiastically united Democrats cheered them on. After the rally, Obama and Clinton spoke exclusively with "Nightline" in their first interview together.

With two weeks remaining before Election Day, Obama told "Nightline" that he's "doing a little better" in Florida thanks to some help from his former rival.

"Hillary, I think, is as effective a spokeperson for the Democratic ideal, which is, that is, that everyone gets a fair shot. That's what she's been fighting for," Obama said. "There are some passionate supporters of hers that may still be trying to figure out who to vote for. She's got some great crossover appeal."

"She's been consistent in campaigning down here in Florida for us," Obama said. "I think it's why we're doing a little better here than we were a month ago."

The appearance occured on the first day of early voting in Florida, an important swing state with 27 electoral votes.

In reference to Gov. Sarah Palin's recent remarks in Greensboro, N.C., praising the small town for being one of the "very pro-America areas of this great nation," Obama said that "I haven't been to a spot yet that hasn't been pro-America. People have differences politically. But everybody's a patriot. That's one of the things that I hope we get back to in our politics if I'm elected president."

The last time Clinton and Obama appeared on stage together campaigning, in New Hampshire in June, the hard fought primary had just come to a close. Both Clinton and Obama said some of those wounds had healed.

"We've had a great campaign," Clinton said.

"She's been doing great," Obama continued, "And I was just talking to her, I can't thank her enough. In places like Florida, where she's got so much popularity, she can be a more effective messenger for us than just about anybody."

"We're going to win," Clinton said. "We are going to win. This campaign has so much momentum for all the right reasons. Not only are people concluding in their own self-interests that they need Barack as our president, but external circumstances in the economy have focused attention on what's been going on for the last eight years."

Clinton said Obama "is offering the kind of change that is needed. It's not just a campaign slogan. It is absolutely at the root of everything he stands for. The more I campaign across the country, I am seeing people really make up their minds that they are really voting for themselves by voting for Obama."

Joint Florida Rally for Clinton, Obama

Not so long ago, Clinton tried to force the Democratic Party to count her one-sided win in Florida's primary, but tonight, Clinton praised her former opponent and urged her supporters to vote for him.

"We need you to work as hard as you can in the next two weeks," she said in her speech. "Many of you supported me in the primary and I am very appreciative of each and every one of you. Now I am asking you to work as hard for Barack as you worked for me. If you made phone calls for me, make them for Barack. If you walked streets for me, walk them for Barack."

Clinton has made more than 50 appearances for Obama since losing the nomination, and she said the two had been "trying to cover as much ground as possible" in the Sunshine State. Obama will take two days off from campaigning on Thursday and Friday to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.

Earlier in the day, Clinton was met by an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 or so supporters at a rally for Obama in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Undaunted by a sudden rain shower, Clinton called on the crowd to support her former opponent: "Help him as much as you helped me," she said.

"The question is," Clinton continued, "Who is for you? Barack Obama and Joe Biden are for you, which is why I am for them."

Backstage before the event, Clinton and Democratic Florida Sen. Bob Graham said they believed that Obama may well win Florida, despite Bush's victories in the state in 2000 and 2004. Graham added that Clinton's presence in the state could make a difference.

"Hillary Clinton is the most popular national politician in Florida today," Graham said. "She won this state, and she can help Obama win it."

They may not ride off into the sunset together, but two weeks before the presidental election, they genuinely seem to have bonded over their singular mission to not only win Florida, but to put a Democrat in the White House.

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