PUTTING their political turbulence behind them, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton began a show of unity aboard Obama’s campaign plane as it carried them to New Hampshire for their first public appearance together since the primary race ended.
After greeting each other with a handshake and a kiss on the tarmac at Reagan national airport, the former foes entered the plane, smiling and gesturing to one another, and spent the entire flight — just over an hour — talking animatedly.
The topic was anyone’s guess — their aides and about 20 members of the media travelling on the plane were left out of the conversation. Ahead lay a rally in New Hampshire, where the goal was to set aside differences and unify the Democratic party.
Clinton has already loaned Obama her top fundraisers, and now the two rivals are going to see if she can do the same with her supporters.
Following a private fundraiser with Clinton’s top donors in Washington on Thursday, the two were heading to the rally in Unity, population 1,700 — a carefully chosen venue in a key general election battleground state.
Aside from the symbolism of its name, Unity awarded exactly 107 votes to each candidate in New Hampshire’s primary in January. Clinton narrowly won the state’s contest, setting in motion an epic coast-to-coast war of attrition.
The Unity gathering was the latest and most visible event in a series of gestures the two senators have made in the past few days in hopes of settling the hard feelings of the long primary season. Clinton also praised Obama before two major interest groups — the American Nurses Association, which endorsed her during the primaries, and NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Both Democrats badly need one another right now as they move to the next phase of the campaign.
Obama is depending on the former first lady to give her voters and donors a clear signal that she doesn’t consider it a betrayal for them to shift their loyalty his way, particularly working class voters and older women — groups that Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain has actively courted since she left the race.
Clinton, for her part, needs the Illinois senator’s help in paying off $10m of her campaign debt, plus an assurance that she will be treated respectfully as a top surrogate on the campaign trail.
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