LAS VEGAS – Hillary Rodham Clinton told an exuberant crowd Friday she wants Barack Obama to win the White House, even though he dashed her own presidential dreams — and she wants her supporters to vote that way, too.
“Anyone who voted for me or caucused for me has so much more in common with Sen. Obama than Sen. McCain,” Clinton told her cheering audience in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson. “Remember who we were fighting for in my campaign.”
Though she has endorsed her former rival, the speech was Clinton’s first appearance at a rally for Obama since the two appeared together in Unity, N.H., in June.
In another sign of growing detente between the House of Clinton and the House of Obama, Democrats said Bill Clinton would speak on the third night of this month’s national convention in Denver.
The Clintons’ efforts on Obama’s behalf may ease worries within the party that bad feelings from the long primary battle might erupt at the convention.
She said Friday that “we may have started on two separate paths, but we are on one journey now.” She said her long primary campaign against the Illinois senator showed her “his passion, his determination, his grace and his grit.”
The crowd let her know they still held her in high regard. They cheered Obama’s name and waved his campaign signs, but no mention of him won as loud a roar as Clinton’s introduction.
Still, she kept her focus on making his case, mentioning key Democratic issues where Obama and McCain would differ — U.S. Supreme Court nominations and health care reform, for example.
She noted Democrats have had difficultly reaching the White House recently and said Obama would need a surge in turnout — and registration — to win in November.
“Which is why Sen. Obama needs all of us, he needs us working for him,” she said.
Some of her backers have complained loudly about the way the only female candidate was treated during the primaries. And Clinton supporters have succeeded in getting language into the draft of the Democratic Party platform that says, “We believe that standing up for our country means standing up against sexism and all intolerance. Demeaning portrayals of women cheapen our debates, dampen the dreams of our daughters and deny us the contributions of too many. Responsibility lies with us all.”
The platform committee will be reviewing the draft Saturday in Pittsburgh.
After weeks of private talks about exactly what the Clintons will do at the national convention, no decision has been reached on whether delegates will actually hold a roll call vote that includes her candidacy.
Such a move could disrupt or distract from the point of the convention — showing a unified party raring to return a Democrat to the White House.
On the other hand, she has suggested that letting her supporters whoop and holler for her might provide a catharsis and help the party move on.
“It’s as old as, you know, Greek drama,” Sen. Clinton told supporters in a recent speech to a private gathering, which was later posted on the Web.
In this particular drama, the Clintons insist they are doing everything they can to get her supporters on board with Obama. Any reluctance, she says, is not hers, but comes from those who committed to her historic bid and are still unhappy that she did not prevail.
Clinton did not mention any convention disputes in her remarks Friday. She later told reporters the two campaigns were still in negotiations.
“We’re going to have a very clear message about how the campaign will cooperate and how the convention will be conducted when it’s appropriate to make that announcement,” she said.
Clinton and Obama may be on the same team, but in the past week they seemed to be running in different directions.
In political terms, one candidate’s catharsis is another’s car wreck. Conventions at which the party appears divided can prove disastrous to the nominee’s chances in the general election.
Obama told reporters Thursday he thought the negotiations with Clinton aides had gone “seamlessly,” but he also rejected the notion that there might be a need for emotional release on the part of some Democrats.
“I don’t think we’re looking for catharsis,” said Obama. “I think what we’re looking for is energy and excitement.”
Giving both Clintons big speeches at the convention may help generate excitement, but it also gives them a lot of attention at a gathering that’s supposed to be about the nominee, Obama.
And Bill Clinton in particular has at times seemed grudging in his praise of the man who stopped his wife’s able ascent.
Asked earlier this week if Obama was ready to be president, Clinton gave a philosophical, not political answer.
“You could argue that no one’s ever ready to be president. I mean, I certainly learned a lot about the job in the first year. You could argue that even if you’ve been vice president for eight years that no one can ever be fully ready for the pressures of the office and that everyone learns something, and something different. You could argue that,” Clinton said.
The Clintons argued through much of the primary that she, a former first lady, was ready to be president on “Day One,” suggesting Obama was not.
The Obama campaign is pretty tired of that argument, particularly since it has become a key refrain of Republican John McCain.
On the Web
McCain campaign: www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: www.barackobama.com/index.php
By Devlin Barrett, Kathleen Hennessey