Clinton to Publicly Withdraw, Support Obama

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is divulging a few details of the top secret meeting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held at her Washington house Thursday night. Video by AP
By Anne E. Kornblut and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 7, 2008

After a tumultuous 17-month journey, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will formally withdraw as a presidential candidate today, publicly declaring her support for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for the first time since he secured the Democratic nomination.

Clinton drew the wrath of many Democrats when she did not acknowledge Obama's victory in her speech on Tuesday night. Her farewell address to supporters, scheduled for noon today at the National Building Museum at Fourth and F streets NW, is intended to repair any lingering damage from the Tuesday speech and will close the door on an epic primary campaign that, after dividing Democrats, produced the first African American presumptive nominee of any major party in history.

The former rivals made progress in their search for common ground during a clandestine hour-long meeting at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Thursday night. Details of the sit-down, held in Feinstein's living room, began to emerge as Clinton aides turned in their cellphones, packed up their offices and put the finishing touches on her much-anticipated speech.

"Hillary will be holding an event tomorrow in Washington D.C. to thank all of her supporters, to express her support for Senator Obama, and to talk about the issues that have been at the core of her public service, the issues she will continue fighting for," campaign manager Maggie Williams wrote in a letter yesterday inviting supporters to attend the gathering. The e-mail doubled as a fundraising solicitation -- a reminder of the nearly $30 million in debt that Clinton will seek to retire.

Clinton welcomed campaign staffers to her Northwest home yesterday for a final, personal thank-you before today's event.

Obama, who is taking the weekend off, made a surprise appearance yesterday at a rally in Chicago for the city's bid to win the 2016 Olympics. Noting that he lives just two blocks from the proposed event site, Obama said: "So I'm just going to be able to walk over there. I might have to rent out my house. I don't know how much it's going to be worth."

He added: "And, also, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to let you know that in 2016, I'll be wrapping up my second term as president."

Neither Clinton nor Obama shared the content of their one-on-one, which aides said they did not think included any conclusive discussion about whether Clinton might be chosen for the vice presidential nomination.

Obama has heaped praise on Clinton in recent weeks, speaking glowingly about her at virtually every public event. He told a crowd in Bristol, Va., on Thursday morning, "I congratulate her on her great achievement, and I know I'm a better candidate that I ran against her."

The two had several brief exchanges this week, including by telephone Tuesday night and in a hallway encounter Wednesday morning at a conference of Jewish leaders. Obama told Clinton on both occasions that he would meet with her whenever she was ready to talk.

En route to Northern Virginia for a campaign rally Thursday evening, Obama told reporters that his offer to talk was open-ended. "I'm looking forward to having a conversation with her. We haven't had the opportunity yet -- we've both been catching our breaths. . . . There will be a time and place when she and I will appear together."

But he gave no inkling that the meeting was about to take place. Obama campaign officials repeatedly denied rumors that the session was in the works, and they did not tell the traveling press corps that the candidate would be staying behind in Washington on Thursday night until the press charter was ready to take off for Chicago.

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