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Clinton's Speech: High Points and the Road Ahead

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Clinton's Speech: High Points and the Road Ahead

Election 2008

Clinton's Speech: High Points and the Road Ahead

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

On this Monday, the stage is set for one Democrat and one Republican to take each other on in a presidential race. Hillary Clinton has forcefully thrown her support behind her Democratic rival.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say yes, we can.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MONTAGNE: Senator Clinton ended her 17-month campaign for the Democratic nomination on Saturday to the cheering supporters who overflowed the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Clinton spoke of the high points, the emotional moments, and perhaps most importantly for the party, the road ahead.

NPR's David Greene has spent much of this campaign on Clinton's plane, and he joins us this morning to talk about her departure from the race. Good morning.

DAVID GREENE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Of course, you were covering that big concession speech on Saturday. It was a pretty amazing speech. Was it what you expected?

GREENE: I've got to say we weren't sure exactly what to expect. You know, when Barack Obama crossed that delegate threshold last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton did not concede the race that night. She didn't even acknowledge that Obama had crossed that line and basically won the nomination.

And when we found out that she'd be giving this speech on Saturday, her advisers were sending some signals that she might not really end the campaign. She might find a way to sort of keep it going, perhaps to spend it, but keep things moving. She might not fully endorse Obama.

So when she used that kind of language that we just heard and said she wanted everyone to fight as hard as they could to make Obama president, that was news. And I was also struck on Saturday by how much of her time she devoted to women and the importance of her campaign to women. You know, she got more than 17 million votes, and she uses the number 18 million. Many of her supporters were women. Here's a little of what she had to say on Saturday.

Sen. CLINTON: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it…

(Soundbite of cheering)

Sen. CLINTON: …and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the paths will be a little easier next time.

MONTAGNE: And it's interesting hearing Senator Clinton talk like that because she really did not play up the fact - and, in fact, played it down - that she was a woman running for president.

GREENE: You're right. She made a decision early on in the campaign to play up her strength and experience. And when she brought up that she was a woman, she would say, yes, I'm a woman running for president but first, you know, I'm running because I believe I'm the most qualified person for the job.

And as she played down her gender, though, over the course of the campaign, women seemed to come to her. They saw her campaign as a movement, even if she wasn't really encouraging it. And I think in many ways, she was giving a nod to that reality, oddly enough, on the day she was dropping out.

MONTAGNE: And those several thousand people there to hear here, how did they react? Hardcore supporters, many of them, of course.

GREENE: Yeah, it was quite a scene, a few thousand, and they went crazy when she came into the room. But every time she brought up Barack Obama's name in the beginning of her remarks, there was a little less excitement. And, in fact, we heard some boos coming from up in the balcony. But as the speech went on, the boos started to disappear, I would say, and Clinton seemed to be bringing her supporters along and helping them through what was a tough day.

And I spoke to a 61-year-old retired nurse after this was over, Renee. Her name's Marty Howb(ph). She's from Maryland. And I went up to her, I said, you know, what did you think? And she almost got a tear in her eye and said she's very upset and she was hoping for what she said was a miracle, that Hillary Clinton would pull this out in the end. And I said, are you ready at this point to vote for Barack Obama? Here's what she said to me…

Ms. MARTY HOWB: I'm getting there. I'm getting there. I mean, I'm a real Democrat, always have been. You know, I'm a nurse, and I've been looking for the right kind of healthcare in this country for a long time. And his program isn't as deep as hers, but we'll have to take what we can get, I guess.

GREENE: So, she said she's getting to the point where she'll be ready to vote for Obama, but she needs a little more time, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And just briefly, David, what next for Hillary Clinton?

GREENE: Well, she says she'll do anything Barack Obama asks of her. And, you know, her supporters hope that means getting a spot on the ticket, but maybe getting a little bit of sleep for now.

MONTAGNE: NPR's David Greene. David, thanks.

GREENE: Thanks, Renee.

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