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Clinton Asks Supporters to Join in Backing Obama

AUDIE CORNISH, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Audie Cornish in for Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of applause)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Life is too short, time is too precious and the stakes are too high...

CORNISH: After 16 months and more than 50 primary contests and caucuses, Senator Hillary Clinton ended her bid for the presidency. Her supporters, many of them women with daughters in tow, crowded the halls and balconies of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. There Clinton not only closed the door on taking her hard-fought campaign any further, she unequivocally endorsed her former rival. She asked her supporters to do the same.

Sen. CLINTON: The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CORNISH: Clinton went on to mention Obama more than a dozen times in her nearly half hour address to modest applause. But it was when she spoke of what her presidential run meant to women when her crowd's cheers rose and tears fell. Clinton's campaign drew nearly 18 million voters, making her run the closest ha woman has come to earning a party nomination.

Sen. CLINTON: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Sen. CLINTON: And the light is shining through like never before...

CORNISH: It wasn't the party she planned, Clinton said, but she sure liked the company. Whether they will follow her lead and back the presumptive nominee remains to be seen. Democratic strategist and Clinton campaign adviser Kiki McLean was there with her two daughters. I asked if she thought Clinton supporters still harbored ill will over the disputed delegates in Florida and Michigan or the way the campaign came to a close.

Ms. KIKI MCLEAN (Democratic Strategist): I don't think - I think that they understand that she went through the process. Every state in the territory had a voice in this campaign, and I think that they'll join her. I think they'll follow her leadership in supporting Senator Obama. Because I know that Democrats across the country are going to be talking about the issues that are so important to us, and the kind of issues that Senator Clinton's been talking about.

CORNISH: But throughout Clinton's address, you couldn't help but notice loud booing here and there. They mostly echoed from the back of the hall when she mentioned the name of Barack Obama. And despite her endorsement of the presumptive nominee, some Clinton supporters walked away unsure of where they stood now that the primary season is over.

Seventy-year-old Elaine Daniels of Bethesda, Maryland was one of them.

Ms. ELAINE DANIELS (Clinton Supporter): I'm not blindly loyal to the party, so I have to rethink my decision. I don't know if I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. I am inclined right now to write in Hillary Clinton.

CORNISH: Others expressed profound disappointment that the New York senator would not continue to fight for the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in August. But, party faithful like Clay Doriti(ph) of San Francisco said he would follow Clinton's lead. He's a delegate to the convention.

Mr. CLAY DORITI (Delegate): I am a Hillary Clinton delegate; I am loyal to her, and when she tells me who to vote for, that's who I'll vote for.

CORNISH: And right now she's saying that those votes should go to Senator Obama, and how are you feeling like that?

Mr. DORITI: Well, personally, I would really like to vote for Senator Clinton, and I'm hoping possibly that we'll have a chance to at least go through a first-round ballot to show our support for her, but if she wants it by unanimous vote, then she's got my vote for Senator Obama.

CORNISH: Do you think that there's a deeper wound there, though, that has to heal between the supporters of Clinton or Obama?

Mr. DORITI: I think it's going to take a little time. I think we're all very passionate about what we believe in. And I wouldn't expect, whether it be Senator Clinton's people or Senator Obama's people, we're passionate and we believe in our candidate. That doesn't change overnight. We love Hillary Clinton. We wanted her to be our president. Am I going to support Barack Obama? Absolutely. But do I need some time to just realize that it's time to move on? I think all of us do.

CORNISH: Barack Obama laid low yesterday, spending the weekend in Chicago. In a statement he commended Clinton for what he called a valiant and historic campaign. Before the day was through, a photo of the former First Lady graced his Web site with a word of thanks and a button encouraging supporters to send the same. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
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