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Obama and Clinton Join Together

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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - June 30, 2008
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Obama, Clinton Join Together in Show of Unity
by: Anne E. Kornblut and Matthew Mosk
The Washington Post

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton showered 
each other with praise yesterday in their first joint 
appearance since the end of the Democratic presidential 
primary season at an event in which the senator from New 
York urged hundreds of her top donors to get behind the 
party's presumptive nominee. 

Clinton spoke first at the event, telling her disappointed 
supporters that Democrats "are a family, and we have an 
opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know 
what's at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to win 
back this White House." 

Obama hailed his former rival and her backers. "I recognize 
that this room shared the same passion that a roomful of my 
supporters would show. I do not expect that passion to be 
transferred. Senator is unique, and your relationships with 
her are unique." But he added, "Senator Clinton and I at 
our core agree deeply that this country needs to change. 

More than 200 Clinton fundraisers were on hand for the 
emotional event, which was emceed by Clinton supporter 
Terence R. McAuliffe, who said that the people in the 
sparse conference room had helped to bring in $230 million 
for her campaign. 

Obama sought to lead the joining together by example, 
announcing that he had personally written a check for 
$2,300, the maximum he can give, to help retire Clinton's 
more than $20 million in campaign debt and that he had 
urged his biggest supporters to follow suit. 

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He faced some tough questions during the event, designed 
to help put 18 months of hard feelings aside and allow 
Democrats to focus on a general-election campaign against 
Republican Sen. John McCain. At one point, an attendee
told Obama that if he wanted to be seen as a true leader, 
he needed acknowledge that sexism had played a role in 
the demise of Clinton's campaign. Obama agreed and said 
that the issue should be addressed. 

The senator from Illinois also worked to assure the 
assembled fundraisers and donors that the campaign is 
not taking them for granted as his campaign prepared to 
try to raise more money than any presidential candidate 
has in history. 

"He said, 'Look, if any of you have been feeling that all 
we want from you is your fundraising ability, I want to 
cancel those feelings right now,' " said Mark Aronchick, 
a Clinton fundraiser in Pennsylvania who attended the 
event. "Put them aside. In fact, I want your networks, 
your influence in your communities, the opinions you have. 
From my point of view, he couldn't have said anything more 
important." 

The event, at Washington's Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 
was a long-awaited step toward bringing the two sides 
together after the hardest-fought primary campaign in 
recent history. Obama and Clinton will travel to the 
town of Unity, N.H. -- which gave each candidate 107 
votes in its January primary -- this morning for their 
first appearance together. 

Building on the joint appearances late this week, top 
Clinton and Obama fundraisers are also scheduled to 
hold a series of events, including a meeting with Obama 
backer Penny Pritzker and Clinton supporters Steven 
Rattner and Maureen White on Tuesday, followed by a 
fundraiser that night held by major bundlers from both 
camps. Obama will return to New York a week later for 
a dinner and gala event, both of which senior Clinton 
supporters will attend. 

Aides described a slowly thawing relationship in which 
many questions have yet to be answered. The New York 
Times reported yesterday that Robert Barnett, a lawyer 
who has brokered book deals for Hillary and Bill Clinton 
and Obama, had been brought in to mediate some of the 
conflicts. 

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Bill Clinton's in the coming months has become one of the 
main sticking points. Obama has not called the former 
president, and Bill Clinton has not reached out to Obama 
in the three weeks since the Democratic primary season 
ended, aides to both said. They said the degree of the 
rift between the two men has been exaggerated, but neither 
side denied that the part the former president would play 
in the fall campaign is one of the jagged edges in a merger 
that has finally begun to take shape. 

Other signs of strain also persist. Some former Clinton 
advisers expressed irritation that Obama seems to believe 
that he can win the election without them or her 
supporters. The former president has told acquaintances 
that he is still upset by the tone of the campaign, 
particularly the way the media covered it. (He has spent 
the past week or so in Europe, appearing in Germany, 
Portugal and Britain.) 

Questions also remain about what role the Clintons will 
play at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this 
summer, as well as Obama's commitment to helping retire 
Hillary Clinton's campaign debt. 

Yet both campaigns said that the planning of the unity 
event has been smooth, with Mo Elleithee, a Clinton 
spokesman, and Kim Molstre, a scheduler, handling much 
of the back-and-forth on behalf of the shuttered campaign.

Donors said they have found similar signs of progress. 
Kirk Wagar, a top Florida fundraiser for Obama, said he 
has "been shocked at how quickly a lot of my friends who 
were helping Senator Clinton have come on board. I would 
like to think our folks would have gone as quickly, but 
I don't know that. 

"It's been a lot less bumpy than I expected," he added.

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Longtime Clinton fundraiser Robert Zimmerman said he has 
seen progress in the unity effort over the past few weeks. 

"Look, you don't achieve energy and excitement through a 
press release or a sound bite or a rally. It takes time," 
he said. "I have never seen a candidate work as hard as 
Hillary has to build unity." 

Zimmerman said that he has spoken with Obama advisers and 
that he thinks they are sincere in their desire to see him 
and others join the campaign. 

"I think they're clearly making efforts," he said. "From 
my discussions, they are very committed to including the 
Clinton fundraisers. It's funny, the stakes are so high, 
and the choice is so clear, that it's now beyond partisan 
politics. It's really about changing the direction of the 
country. Everyone is really pulling together. Every day, 
I see new examples of that." 

"Everyone has checked their egos at the door," Zimmerman 
said. 

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Staff writer Shailagh Murray contributed to this report. 

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