In D.C., Obama Meets With Clinton
Friday, June 6, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama moved quickly yesterday to unite his party around his candidacy, paying an unexpected visit to his soon-to-be-former Democratic rival, while dispatching one of his top field operatives to help run the Democratic National Committee.
After a day spent campaigning across Virginia, Obama delayed a trip home to Chicago last night to visit Clinton at the Washington home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior Democratic source said. A joint statement issued by the campaign said: "Senator Clinton and Senator Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November." Coming just before Clinton's expected departure from the race, it was seen as a reconciliation gesture to the senator from New York and her millions of disappointed supporters.
In addition to DNC staff changes, Obama extended his campaign's prohibition on raising funds from lobbyists and political action committees on the party's fundraising operations. Paul Tewes, one of the architects of Obama's primary strategy and the field general of his critical victory in the Iowa caucuses, will serve as Obama's point man at DNC.
The party chairman, Howard Dean, has been pursuing a "50-state" strategy since 2005, an effort many Democrats have criticized because it has been an enormous drain on the party's resources. The DNC has trailed its Republican counterpart badly this election cycle and had just $4.4 million in the bank at the end of April, compared with the Republican National Committee's $40.6 million.
Obama said his special-interest money ban is "not a perfect solution" but is an important symbolic move. "It does at least signal that we are going to make an effort to reverse a culture in Washington that has come to be dominated by the wealthy and the powerful," he said in a news conference aboard his campaign plane en route from Bristol in the state's southwest corner to the Nissan Pavilion in Northern Virginia, where he held a rally to kick off his general-election campaign.
With Clinton set to formally suspend her campaign tomorrow, party leaders stepped up efforts to unify Democrats after a grueling and historic battle. New York's 23-member Democratic delegation in the House -- among them some of the most stalwart Clinton backers -- collectively endorsed Obama as the Democratic nominee, pledging to return to their districts this weekend and work to sway Clinton voters to embrace him as well.
Clinton, meanwhile, tried to quiet a campaign by her allies to force her onto the Democratic ticket. "While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her," her campaign said in a news release. "The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."
Obama said he "appreciated very much" the statement, and he instructed reporters to dismiss all speculation about possible running mates. He said he will neither discuss the selection process nor parade prospects in public, as the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain, appeared to do last month when Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former opponent Mitt Romney visited his Arizona ranch -- although his unexpected visit with Clinton did raise a few eyebrows.
"The next time you hear from me about the vice presidential selection process will be when I have selected a vice president," Obama told reporters. "If you hear secondhand accounts, rumors, gossip about the selection process, you can take it from me that it is wrong, because we're not going to be talking about it in the press."
He has already begun the delicate rebuilding process with Clinton supporters. Obama met with a small group on Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minn., hours after he crossed the delegate threshold to become the presumptive nominee. Obama said he will continue the outreach sessions when he returns to the campaign trail on Monday, after taking the weekend off.
"We're going to try to reach out to all her supporters and tell them that we want to unify the party," Obama told reporters. He recounted his comments to the St. Paul group: "I understood that they were as inspired by her candidacy as some of my supporters are inspired by mine. They're not alone in drawing inspiration from her campaign. My own daughters now take the possibility of a woman being president for granted."
Clinton backers also turned their attention to the next step for the former first lady.