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In D.C., Obama Meets With Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton, shown at her party in New York after the final primary votes were cast Tuesday, emphasized yesterday that the choice of a running mate is "Obama's and his alone."
Hillary Rodham Clinton, shown at her party in New York after the final primary votes were cast Tuesday, emphasized yesterday that the choice of a running mate is "Obama's and his alone." (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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"I think she'd make a fantastic partner in government," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York delegation, "but I shouldn't have even said that." Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) suggested a Supreme Court seat.

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And top Clinton policy advisers began informal talks with the Obama camp, including Roger Altman, a senior official in Bill Clinton's Treasury Department, and Jamie Rubin, who was the administration's State Department spokesman.

But the fractures from the long primary campaign were not far from the surface. The New Yorkers didn't so much endorse Obama as endorse Clinton's decision to suspend her campaign. "We are so pleased to see that on this Saturday, in Washington, D.C., she intends to not only reach out for unity but to reach out and support directly Senator Obama," Rangel said, adding that the delegation is "showing our unequivocal support for what she is doing."

On a conference call with Clinton, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) suggested that she take a two-pronged approach to the months ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Denver: concede the nomination to Obama immediately but take a few weeks off to decide just how she will work on his behalf.

Maloney allowed that "there are some [women] who say they won't support" Obama, but she said that once the differences between him and McCain are laid out clearly, especially on abortion rights and Supreme Court nominees, women will get on board.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) said Obama made a strong first step to win over Jewish voters who sided strongly with Clinton with his speech Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Engel said Obama struck the right chords with his pledge to back an undivided Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to ensure that any solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not have a "Made in America" stamp on it.

But he added: "He needs to keep doing that. There is concern."

Obama was also looking beyond such traditional Democratic constituencies yesterday.

Obama didn't make it to the largely rural district of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) in the run-up to the Virginia primary, but he promised he would return once he had locked up his party's nomination. Yesterday, he delivered during his swing through Virginia.

Boucher, who endorsed Obama in January but saw his conservative district support Clinton in the primary, said the presumptive Democratic nominee "made a large start here in winning the hearts and minds of people in my district" as he addressed about 3,000 people in Bristol.

Virginia is high on the list of traditionally Republican states in which Obama hopes to be competitive in this fall.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

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