Clinton Pullout Likely Saturday

The Post's Dan Balz assesses the final months of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign.Editor: Ed O'Keefe/washingtonpost.comFootage: Ed O'Keefe, Jacqueline Refo, Francine Uenuma/
By Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to suspend her presidential campaign on Saturday and endorse Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, according to informed sources, after a day in which many of her key supporters and party leaders encouraged the senator from New York to make a quick decision in the interest of party unity.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement late yesterday that did not officially confirm her decision but said Clinton would hold an event in Washington "to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity." The event was originally scheduled for tomorrow, but in a subsequent release her campaign announced that it would be moved to Saturday "to accommodate more of Senator Clinton's supporters who want to attend."

The decision came hours after the launch of an aggressive campaign by some of Clinton's supporters to encourage Obama to pick her as his running mate had further stoked tensions with backers of the senator from Illinois. Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a prominent Clinton confidant, said in an interview that she was "absolutely ready" to talk to Obama about the No. 2 slot and would take it if offered.

The vice presidential talk and pressure on Clinton to quit the race created an awkward ending to the Democratic race at a time when Obama is eager to turn his attention to the general-election campaign against Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

McCain, meanwhile, put his opponent on the spot yesterday with a call for 10 joint town hall meetings at which he and Obama would share the stage and begin a dialogue that would be unprecedented in modern presidential politics.

Although Obama was the newly crowned winner of the Democratic race, the focus remained on Clinton through much of yesterday as Democrats pushed anxiously for her to bring her candidacy to an end.

Even some supporters of Clinton were baffled by the fact that she had still neither endorsed Obama nor announced an intention to continue fighting for the nomination all the way through the Democratic National Convention in August.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of Clinton's most stalwart supporters, said he would back her efforts to join Obama on the ticket. But, he added, it is incumbent on her to acknowledge she had lost the fight to Obama.

"What I don't know is what the heck she needs this extra time for," he said, referring to Clinton's speech Tuesday, in which she said she would take a few days to consider her options. "How much more time does she need to be able to say the person she wants to help is Barack Obama? I don't know what this intrigue is all about."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin sent out a joint letter urging the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to quickly declare their intentions, though without giving Clinton a timetable for making her decision.

Clinton visited her campaign's Northern Virginia headquarters after speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and told staffers that they would be paid through June 15 but that tomorrow would be their last day of work, leading to speculation that she would drop her candidacy then.

Endorsements for Obama continued rolling in from party officials, senators and House leaders. He was greeted warmly at the AIPAC conference, where sentiments might have tilted against him among audience members wary about the depth of his support for Israel.

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