Emanuel Gets Out of Neutral, Endorses Obama

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has thrown his support behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama after remaining neutral throughout the primary race.

Emanuel, who served in the White House when Bill Clinton was president and is a member of the Illinois congressional delegation, tells NPR's Robert Siegel that he wanted to stand in alliance with Obama at Wednesday's Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He says he did so with Clinton's blessing.

"First of all, [Obama] is the nominee: The most important thing we can do is get ready for November," Emanuel says. "I'm slightly in a different place than other people. Hillary said she's interested in the vice presidency. If she's interested in the vice presidency, she's acknowledged he's the nominee, and that process has ended."

But after running such a long, intense campaign, Clinton should take the time she needs to call the race, Emanuel says.

"Nobody expects that after so close a race that tomorrow you're done," Emanuel says. "So she gets the time and I think that's an appropriate human gesture."

As for Emanuel's timing, it's directly tied to the AIPAC conference.

"This is where I wanted to support him," he says. "Without a doubt there were a lot of expectations to today's speech, and I think he gave a very powerful speech ... What is a friend? Somebody who you implicitly trust for their loyalty and you expect their honesty. If Barack was elected, Israel would have a friend."

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