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Obama, Clinton bury the hatchet, tout unity in Unity


In an important symbolic gesture, both Clintons contributed the maximum $2,300 apiece to Obama’s campaign last Friday. The announcement followed Obama’s disclosure that he and his wife Michelle would give the same amount toward Clinton’s debt retirement.

But there are still some touchy questions to resolve. Obama, famously averse to drama, still needs to determine how best to use the Democratic Party’s visible and complicated former first couple in the campaign.

Aides to the two former rivals said they are further along in mending fences than some of their supporters, especially Clinton’s. An Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll published last Thursday showed Obama has over slightly more than half of the New York senator’s former supporters, but about a quarter of her backers say they will support Republican McCain over Obama. Many of Clinton’s voters also expressed concerns about Obama’s lack of experience.

At a fundraiser last Thursday night where Clinton introduced her top donors to Obama, the Illinois senator sidestepped questions about whether he would choose her as his running mate and whether he would countenance her name being placed in nomination at the Democratic convention in August. Both questions portend controversy down the road.

Still, last Friday was a day for Democrats to pledge a united front in the campaign against McCain. And it was a chance to remember the most historic presidential primary campaign in memory.

Since Clinton suspended her candidacy June 7, the early weeks of the general election contest between Obama and McCain have seemed conventional and small. The sniping between the two men over trade, terrorism, energy and campaign finance has not matched the sweep and drama of the contest between the first black presidential candidate with a real chance and the strongest female presidential contender.

Against the memory of the five-month primary contest, the former rivals’ joint appearance felt unusually poignant. The dynamic between the two Democrats had changed since the last time they shared a stage.

They came dressed for unity, her pantsuit and his tie both shades of light blue. And after months of cool, steely standoff, they smiled, whispered jokes and awkwardly embraced.

“She rocks. She rocks,” Obama said, as Clinton smiled quietly from the side of the stage. At the end, she quickly exited the stage and left Obama to soak in the glory alone.

Beth Fouhy covers presidential politics for The Associated Press.

(Associated Press)

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