Clinton to bow out and back Obama
Hillary Clinton said she will bow out of her marathon campaign for the White House on Saturday and throw her full support behind Democratic rival Barack Obama.
In a letter to supporters early on Thursday, she said she would use an event in Washington, DC, to thank her backers and urge the party to unite behind Obama, who on Tuesday secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination.
“I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party’s nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise,” said Clinton in the letter, published in various media reports.
The New York senator had so far refused to concede defeat, saying she would deliberate in the coming days.
“I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise,” the letter said.
Clinton looked ahead to the general election showdown with Republican John McCain in November as she sought to paste over the party splits laid bare in an often bitter nominating race.
“My differences with Senator Obama are small compared with the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans,” she said.
Obama offered a similar message at a Manhattan fundraiser late on Wednesday, according to the New York Times, saying: “Now that the inter-family squabble is done, all of us can focus on what needs to be done in November.”
United States media earlier reported Clinton would bow out Friday at the urging of Democratic members of Congress, but her campaign said she would hold an event Saturday instead to allow more of her supporters to attend.
Clinton visited her campaign headquarters in Arlington, in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, on Wednesday to inform most of the staff that they would no longer be required after Friday, ABC News said.
Junior staffers were said to be emotional and some were crying at the final confirmation that their 16 months of hard graft had come to naught.
In refusing to concede immediately, Clinton kept her options open, and her supporters spent Wednesday talking up her credentials to be Obama’s nominee for vice-president.
Clinton sung her rival’s praises to a powerful pro-Israel lobby earlier in the day, seeking to shed his perceived weaknesses among Jewish voters.
“Let me be very clear, I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel,” she said.
Obama also heaped praise on his rival for making “history” on the campaign trail, as the two addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Council within minutes of each other.
Obama told reporters after a visit to the US Senate that he had talked with Clinton in the early hours of Wednesday, adding: “We are going to be having a conversation with the coming weeks.”
On November 4, voters must pick between Obama (46), a freshman senator and charismatic mixed-race champion of a new political generation, and McCain (71), a Vietnam War hero asking for one final call to service.
Obama plunged straight into the five-month election battle on Wednesday, crossing swords with McCain over Middle East policy.
Laying out the contours of his presidential programme, Obama insisted Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel, and said he would work to “eliminate” the threat posed by Iran.
“His appearance was very impressive. His words on Jerusalem were very moving,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters after meeting President George Bush in the White House.
But less than two hours later, McCain’s campaign was on the attack, denouncing Obama for presenting a “rather odd, alternative reality”.—AFP