Obama and Clinton 'Unite for Change'

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together in, appropriately enough, Unity, New Hampshire on Friday in their first joint appearance since Clinton dropped out of the presidential race.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made up in public yesterday. Mr. Obama, of course, is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Mrs. Clinton has taken the role of supporter and cheerleader now, a job made all the more critical because of the millions of votes that she won in primary contests this year and because of the intense loyalty many of her supporters still show for her. Yesterday, Senators Obama and Clinton held their first joint rally to promote party unity in a small town called Unity, New Hampshire. NPR's Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA: Here's what it sounds like when two people who worked their hardest trying to bury one another for the past year suddenly try to get beyond the fight and show that they can work together. It was a steaming, hot summer day in a place chosen both for its name, Unity, and the fact that Obama and Clinton fought to a draw in this town in this year's New Hampshire primary.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): We have gone toe to toe in this hard-fought primary, but today, and every day going forward, we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): It's fitting that we meet in a place called Unity, because the truth is that's the only way we can solve the challenges facing this country.

Senator CLINTON: I was honored to be in this race with Barack, and I am proud that we had a spirited dialogue.

(Soundbite of crowd laughter)

Senator CLINTON: That was the nicest way I could think of phrasing it.

(Soundbite of crowd laughter)

Senator OBAMA: For 16 months, Senator Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals for the nomination. But today I could not be happier and more honored and more moved that we're sharing this stage as allies to bring about the fundamental changes that this country so desperately needs.

GONYEA: And the crowd? Well, if you went by the rhythmic chanting, sometimes it was hard to tell who the rally was for.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Hillary! Hillary!")

Senator CLINTON: You know.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Hillary! Hillary!")

Senator CLINTON: You know.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Hillary! Hillary!")

GONYEA: Amidst all of the day's mutual praise, Senator Clinton also acknowledged that some of her supporters, upset or angry over the outcome of the Democratic primaries, are now thinking of voting for John McCain. She said she strongly urges them to reconsider. Thousands turned out for yesterday's rally to witness the coming together of these two campaigns. There were skeptics, like Clinton voter Carol Stone Oaks(ph).

Ms. CAROL STONE OAKS (Hillary Clinton Supporter): Unity shmunity. There's no evidence of any unity. There's evidence of Barack Obama supporters all over the place. There's no evidence that any Hillary Clinton supporters were brought in here to unify with this mesmerized crowd.

GONYEA: But that was a minority view on this day. More typical was 60-year-old Janet O'Brien(ph). She wore a straw hat for shade with a Hillary button affixed prominently above the brim.

Ms. JANET O'BRIEN (Hillary Clinton Supporter): I think it will be unity. I think we'll be OK by the end of the day. When you actually get in that voting booth, and you actually take it seriously, and you have to check something off, they'll check Obama.

GONYEA: In past elections, unifying the Democratic Party after hard-fought primary campaigns has not always been easy. And yesterday's event shows the Obama campaign is taking the task of wooing Clinton supporters seriously. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Unity, New Hampshire.

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Clinton, Obama Unite in Unity, N.H.

Clinton and Obama in Unity, N.H.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama participate in their first joint campaign appearance on June 27, 2008, in Unity, N.H. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Crowds in Unity, N.H.

The crowd cheers as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton enter the town of Unity, N.H. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images
Clinton and Obama on a plane.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton talk onboard Obama's campaign plane on June 27, 2008, en route to New Hampshire. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton officially put their hard-fought battle behind them Friday with their first big joint rally held in the very small town of Unity, N.H.

The tone of the event was one of mutual admiration, even as polls suggest some reluctance among Clinton supporters to switch allegiance to Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The crowd was full of enthusiastic supporters of both senators, and there was an explosion of applause when the guests of honor took the stage. Many waved signs for Clinton, and — just in case anyone missed the message of the day — giant painted plywood letters hung at the top of the bleachers spelled out the word UNITY. The town was selected not only for its name but because it's where both Democrats won exactly the same number of votes in January's primary.

Clinton, who spoke first, told her supporters that backing Obama was important, since he will need their help this fall in battleground states such as New Hampshire.

She also addressed the Democratic Party's fractured state, saying, "If you are considering not voting or voting for John McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider."

Clinton's endorsement of Obama left nothing out. She described his agenda as her agenda –- the only option for those who believe in the things she fought for when she campaigned.

When she finished speaking, the crowd chanted her name. Clinton and Obama embraced and held their clasped hands high. Then Obama took a turn at the microphone.

He praised Clinton for the race she ran, for the barriers she broke and for the inspiration she gave to women. He also praised her decades of public service. Then he turned his attention to the day's theme.

"It's fitting we meet in Unity because that's the only way we can change things," he said in his pitch to Clinton backers.

Obama made it clear that the voters who supported both Democrats in the New Hampshire primary were really voting for the same goal.

At the end of the rally, many Democratic voters were already looking ahead to the general election. And many said they thought the rally could be a first step toward a Democratic ticket that includes both Obama and Clinton.

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