Oct. 21, 2008— -- As the presidential campaign enters the homestretch, Sen. Hillary Clinton hit the trail in Nebraska, Tuesday, in support of Sen. Barack Obama, whom she called her friend.
Clinton questioned Obama's experience during the campaign, but in an interview with "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden she said that she was now committed to helping him win the White House.
"I was running against him," she said. "I mean, it would be like saying to somebody who just lost the playoffs ... to get into the World Series, 'Well, you know, are you going to root for the team from your league?' And, you know, 'Yeah, I'll get around to it.' ... It's a human experience and, obviously, a lot of human emotion."
Clinton said that after the "intense experience" of the primary, she needed to recharge before returning to campaign on behalf of her former opponent. After "getting a little sleep, taking a few long walks, I was back in the fray and very happy to be doing everything I can for him," she said.
Reflecting on her own historic campaign for the presidency, Clinton said that she had never thought of herself as "the woman candidate, although obviously I was," and that she hadn't anticipated "the historical burden that I was carrying."
When asked about Gov. Sarah Palin, Clinton said that she didn't mind comparisons with the Republican vice presidential candidate, but wouldn't say whether she thought Palin represented a positive step forward for women.
Issues, Clinton said, are "fair game," but "I think that both Barack and Joe [Biden] were very smart, after an initial kind of misstep, in pulling back and not criticizing Governor Palin personally."
Sen. John McCain's campaign has been criticized for raising personal attacks against Obama, in referencing his relationship with former 1960s radical Bill Ayers. McCain initially defended his decision, but the campaign later backed off that approach. Clinton said she wouldn't "make a value judgment" on how another campaign was run.
"He gets to run his campaign however he chooses," she said, "But I don't think that he's been very effective in making the case for new leadership and the kind of separation from the Bush policies and the Republican ideology that has been so bad for America."
Clinton on Palin: Let People 'Draw Their Own Conclusions'
Palin referenced Clinton in her first speech after being announced as the vice presidential pick, saying that Clinton had put "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling."
When asked whether she resented Palin invoking her campaign in that speech, Clinton said, "I think we all stand on other people's shoulders. I believe that you can hold two thoughts simultaneously. You can hold the thought that she's an extraordinary woman. She has an incredible set of skills, personal skills that are really apparent in how she connects with people and her life story. But that doesn't mean that she and John McCain should lead our country, for a million reasons that I think people understand."
When asked if Palin was prepared to be commander in chief, Clinton said, "I believe that our ticket is much better." She said that Obama and Joe Biden possess a greater "ability to really assess difficult, complex problems," citing their response to the recent economic crisis.
"The contrast could not be starker," she said. "And see, that's convincing to people. You don't tell people, do this or believe that. Let people see it and draw their own conclusions, and that's what's happened."
Mutual Praise from Obama, Clinton in First Interview Together
Clinton and Obama went their separate ways after a joint appearance Monday in Orlando, Fla. In their first joint interview with "Nightline," the two hugged.
During the campaign, Clinton maintained that Obama didn't have the experience necessary to be commander in chief, most memorably with a campaign ad asking viewers who would be ready for a "3 a.m. phone call."
Now Clinton says that Obama will be ready on day one, and is ready for that call. She praised his "steady, calm, intelligent leadership" over the last few months..
"What has happened in the last month, given the economic crisis that we have confronted as a nation, is that the American people could see very starkly the two people vying to be our president," she said.
On Monday, Obama told "Nightline" that his former opponent has helped his campaign.
"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've had a great campaign," said Clinton, who has made more than 50 appearances for Obama since he secured the Democratic nomination.
"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."
Clinton: I've Grown in This Campaign
As for her future, Clinton said she was looking forward to returning to the Senate. "I am very optimistic and increasingly confident that Barack is going to be our president. I want to help him as a senator from New York. We need all of the Democratic senators we can possibly get. ... I want to stay there. I want to fight for health care, to turn this economy around, to get the best energy policy -- everything that I campaigned on."
She did, however, say that the campaign changed her.
"I am certainly a different person. I mean, I like to think that, you know, at the end of most days, I've learned something and I've perhaps grown and come more fully into whoever it is I'm supposed to be."
Clinton added that she was surprised to discover that "there is a lot of unfinished business in our country when it comes to gender." In addition to the important issues, such as equal pay for equal work, Clinton said that she had witnessed firsthand "the more invisible and hidden attitudes about women and women's roles and responsibilities. We just have to keep chipping away."
When asked if it was helpful or harmful to be a woman running for president, Clinton said "I'll have to think about it."
"I don't know what the answer is," she said. "I think it was incredibly gratifying in lots of ways because of what it engendered in other people. I think that it also had certain unexpected burdens that came with it. But I couldn't have run any other way because of who I am and what I believe in. So I'm hoping that the next time someone runs for president who happens to be a woman, we will have knocked down a lot of those hidden barriers, and it'll be on the merits: are you the better candidate, are you going to be able to make the best case? Will you be the better leader? That's the question."