UNITY, N.H. — Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton stood side by side in the tiny New England outpost of Unity to provide the image that many Democrats needed to see after their long, bruising primary battle.
And the former rivals both understand they need each other now. Last Friday’s unity event was the first public step in meeting all those needs.
Obama publicly implored the New York senator and her husband, former President Clinton, for their help.
“We need them. We need them badly,” Obama said. “Not just my campaign, but the American people need their service and their vision and their wisdom in the months and years to come, because that’s how we’re going to bring about unity in the Democratic Party. And that’s how we’re going to bring about unity in America.”
And he let her supporters know he appreciates her historic run bid to become the first female president.
“I know that … because of the campaign that Hillary Clinton waged, my daughters and all of your daughters will forever know that there is no barrier to who they are and what they can be in the United States of America,” Obama said.
Obama and his supporters also got what they needed to see: Clinton endorsing the Illinois senator without equivocation and imploring her loyalists to join his cause.
“To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Sen. [John] McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider,” said Clinton. “To accomplish the goals that we all care about and stand for is to take our passion, our energy, and our strength, and do everything we can to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.”
After worrying for months that the Clintons would be too narcissistic and power-hungry to accept defeat with grace, Obama’s backers had to acknowledge that she more than came through with her end of the bargain.
The former first lady needs to be an energetic team player to protect her own legacy. She cannot be seen as someone who stood in the way of a Democratic victory in November or of electing the first black president. Many Obama backers already blame Clinton for weakening Obama’s candidacy by remaining in the primary race long after she had any hope of winning.
Bill Clinton must also guard his legacy by campaigning full-bore for Obama. But the former president was conspicuously absent from the Unity gathering, and friends say it could be a while before he is ready to fully embrace Obama’s candidacy.
The former first lady also needs Obama’s help paying back her multimillion-dollar campaign debt, and he has promised to lend a hand.(p2)