'Barack Obama Is My Candidate'

In a momentous speech Tuesday night at the Democratic national Convention, Hillary Clinton stressed unity and support for Barack Obama for the future of the party.
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 26 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton roused the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night with sharp criticism of Sen. John McCain and a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, her former rival for the party's nomination, urging Democrats to put the long and bitter battle behind them and unite to take back the White House in November.

"You haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership," Clinton told an audience packed to overflowing at Denver's Pepsi Center. "No way. No how. No McCain. Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president."

With some Clinton supporters still voicing reluctance to back the senator from Illinois, the former first lady's address was the most highly anticipated of the convention, short of Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday night. Her appearance was designed to signal the final transition from leader of her own historic campaign, which drew 18 million votes and pushed Obama to the limit, to unabashed supporter of the party's presumptive nominee.

Introduced as "my hero" by her daughter, Chelsea, Clinton received a thunderous welcome when she walked onstage to a sea of white placards with her familiar "Hillary" signature in blue. Before her entrance, delegates watched a video, narrated by her daughter, that not only paid tribute to her campaign but also gently mocked her well-known laugh and her inability to carry a tune.

Clinton described the passions that drove her to seek the presidency, including a desire to rebuild the economy, enact universal health care, end the war in Iraq and stand up for what she called "invisible" Americans. "Those are the reasons I ran for president. These are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should, too," she told an audience that included her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.).

When she finished, the white placards that had greeted her gave way to narrow blue-and-white signs that said "Obama" on one side and "Unity" on the other, as well as signs that said "Hillary" and "Unity."

Clinton called McCain "a colleague and a friend who has served his country with honor." But she told the delegates, "We don't need four more years of the last eight years," and she drew a huge cheer when she described McCain as a virtual clone of President Bush who would continue the administration's policies.

"It makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities," she said, referring to the site of the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. "Because these days, they're awfully hard to tell apart."

Obama aides said he called Clinton after watching her speech at a house in Billings, Mont., and thanked her for her support. He also called Bill Clinton and congratulated him on his wife's performance.

Before Hillary Clinton arrived at the convention, former Virginia governor Mark Warner, delivering the keynote address, described Obama as the candidate best equipped to put the United States on course to win "the race for the future" in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Arguing that the status quo "just won't cut it," Warner said McCain would explode the deficit, ignore the nation's infrastructure needs and continue spending $10 billion a month on the Iraq war. "That's four more years that we just can't afford," he said to cheers. "Barack Obama has a different vision and a different plan."

The election, Warner said, is about not left vs. right but future vs. past. He said Obama would not govern as a partisan Democrat but would reach out to the opposition to get things done. "We need leaders who will appeal to us not as Republicans or Democrats but first and foremost as Americans," he said.

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