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NPR's Mara Liasson reports on the second day of the convention on 'Morning Edition'

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Clinton: 'A Single Party With A Single Purpose'

Clinton: 'A Single Party With A Single Purpose'

NPR's Mara Liasson reports on the second day of the convention on 'Morning Edition'

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Hillary Clinton did everything she could Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver to help unify the party. She urged her supporters that, no matter how painful, they get behind Barack Obama. She said Democrats must prevent another White House win by Republicans.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Last night at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Hillary Clinton gave a forceful endorsement of Barack Obama. She urged her supporters to do the same. The keynote speaker was Virginia senatorial candidate Mark Warner, but he was overshadowed by the most anticipated speech of the week.

Senator Clinton was a close runner-up to Obama in the primaries and last night she said it was time for the party to unify behind his candidacy. Now it's up to her delegates to decide whether they will heed her call. We have two stories. First, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON: Political conventions are scripted events, four-day infomercials, where the nominee's campaign is usually in complete control of the party's message. So to the extent there was a suspense here in Denver, it centered around Hillary Clinton and how she would handle the catharsis she said her supporters needed before they rallied behind Obama.

She answered that question within seconds of walking out on the podium to a roaring ovations.

(Soundbite of applause)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): My friends...

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. CLINTON: It is time to take back the country we love. And whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: Clinton paid tribute to her champions. She called them my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits, and said that together they had made history. She thanked her supporters, the struggling working class Americans who became her voting base during the long primary battle with Obama.

Sen. CLINTON: You allowed me to become part of your lives and you became part of mine. I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism. She didn't have any health insurance and she discovered she had cancer, but she greeted me with her bald head, painted with my name on it, and asked me to fight for health care for her and her children.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: Aides say in private Clinton is still struggling with her own anger and disappointment, but last night she encouraged her delegates to get over it.

Sen. CLINTON: I want you to ask yourselves, were you in this campaign just for me or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that young boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?

LIASSON: And she argued that no matter how painful the process of rallying behind the nominee may be for some of her supporters, the stakes are too high to do anything other than unite.

Sen. CLINTON: This will not be easy. Progress never is. But it will be impossible if we don't fight to put a Democrat back into the White House.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: The convention had been buzzing about whether Clinton's embrace of Obama would be heartfelt, but to Harold Ickes, one of her top campaign strategists, there was never any doubt that she would do everything she could to bring the party together.

Mr. HAROLD ICKES (Clinton Strategist): It's in the country's interest, but it's clearly in her very narrow political self-interest to be for him full-throated.

LIASSON: Anything that could be seen as undermining Obama, says Ickes, could also undermine Clinton's future in the Democratic Party.

Mr. ICKES: If he doesn't win, she will be seen - especially being a Clinton - she will be seen as not having fully supported him and it will be held against her big time by serious constituencies, starting with African-Americans.

LIASSON: Last night Clinton left no doubt where she stood in support of Obama, but she did something more - she took the fight to John McCain. McCain has been trying to exploit the rift in the Democratic Party with a series of ads using Clinton's words from the primaries.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Man: Uncertainty, dangerous aggression, rogue nations, radicalism...

Sen. CLINTON: I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House, and Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

Unidentified Man: Hillary's right: John McCain for president.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona, Presidential Nominee): I'm John McCain and I approved this message.

LIASSON: Clinton reacted to that by saying I'm Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message. And her attacks last night were as tough as the Democrats have been clamoring for.

Sen. CLINTON: Well, John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound. John McCain doesn't think 47 million people without health insurance is a crisis. John McCain wants to privatize Social Security, and in 2008 he still thinks it's okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work.

(Soundbite of booing)

Sen. CLINTON: Now, with an agenda like that, it makes perfect sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities, because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: When the convention began, there were plenty of diehard Hillary delegates who said no matter what she said they would not support Obama. But after Clinton's speech last night there were probably fewer of them.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Denver.

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Clinton: 'Barack Obama Is My Candidate'

Hillary Clinton's Prime-Time Speech

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NPR's Mara Liasson reports on the second day of the convention on 'Morning Edition'

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Audio Highlights

Read transcripts and hear the audio from some of Tuesday night's key speeches:

Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center, where Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption John Moore/Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center, where Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night.

John Moore/Getty Images

Outside the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, it was obvious Hillary Clinton still has plenty of loyal supporters. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Outside the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, it was obvious Hillary Clinton still has plenty of loyal supporters.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned plea for party unity in a forceful address to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, declaring, "Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our president."

Clinton, who narrowly lost the race for the Democratic nomination to Obama, delivered her anxiously awaited speech before a packed house at the Pepsi Center in Denver, jokingly giving her thanks "to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" while wearing an orange pantsuit.

But she also challenged her supporters, many of whom have been reluctant to transfer their allegiance to Obama. "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or ... were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"

Clinton called presumptive Republican nominee John McCain a colleague and friend but said the nation doesn't "need four more years of the last eight years." She said it made sense that McCain and George Bush would be together for next week's Republican convention "in the Twin Cities, because they're awfully hard to tell apart."

'Psychological Release'

Clinton was given an extended ovation before and after her address. And at least some of her supporters were mollified by her remarks.

"I feel psychologically released," said Clinton delegate Deborah Hauser of New Haven, Conn. "She reminded me I didn't vote just for Hilary but for progressive ideals."

Fellow Connecticut delegate Jennifer Just, an Obama supporter, said Clinton "did what she needed to do" in rallying her supporters behind Obama.

Obama may have thought so as well. He reportedly called Clinton after her speech to congratulate her.

Earlier in the night, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who's now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, delivered a keynote speech focused on economic themes.

"The most important contest of our generation has begun — not the campaign for the presidency or the campaign for Congress, but the race for the future," he said, adding that electing Obama president is the nation's "one shot to get it right."

Warner said that race won't be won "by a president who is stuck in the past." He said the nation needs "a president who understands the world today. We need Barack Obama as the next president of the United States."

'Wake Up, America.' Unleashing Attacks On McCain

But most of Warner's remarks were devoid of the sort of partisanship that characterized many of the Democrats' speeches on the convention's second day, and more in tune with the post-partisan approach that Obama has embraced.

"I know we're at the Democratic National Convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn't matter if it has an 'R' or 'D' next to it," Warner said.

Several of the nation's Democratic governors were given prime-time opportunities to address the convention. Ohio's Ted Strickland, a Clinton supporter during the primary, said, "It's time for a president who will bring our jobs back and bring our troops home. It's time for Barack Obama."

While there was some consternation among Democratic pundits that there weren't enough attacks on McCain's record in Monday's opening session of the convention, most Democrats seemed to shake off any hesitation on Tuesday. Speaker after speaker tied McCain to the unpopular presidency of George Bush.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a staunch Clinton backer during the primary season, targeted the high cost of gasoline and said the Bush administration "stonewalled taxing energy company profits. Guess who voted with the Bush administration 90 percent of the time? John McCain."

Rendell noted that many of McCain's top advisers work as lobbyists for oil and gas companies, and said, "The only thing green in John McCain's energy plans are the billions of dollars he's promising in more tax cuts to oil companies."

Ohio congressman and one-time presidential contender Dennis Kucinich delivered a populist-tinged speech that had many delegates on their feet. "They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children's inheritance and hollow out the economy. We cannot afford another Republican administration. Wake up, America."

How Will The Roll Call Play Out?

Wednesday may provide a clearer picture of the extent of unity among Democratic delegates as the roll call of the states is held. A traditional convention staple, the roll call has been the subject of delicate negotiations between the Obama campaign and Clinton backers.

Obama's supporters want to avoid a noisy and potentially divisive demonstration of support for Clinton, while supporters of Clinton say the roll call will provide the "catharsis" they deserve. The compromise appears to be to allow the roll call to proceed until after the New York delegation casts its votes. At that time, Clinton would end the proceedings and call for Obama to be nominated by acclamation.

The highlight of Wednesday night will be the speech by Obama's new running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. Biden, notoriously loquacious, may be hard-pressed to limit his remarks to the prime-time window allotted by the TV networks.

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