WASHINGTON, Fri Jun 27, (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton take the first step toward healing the wounds of their bruising presidential nominating fight with a joint appearance on Friday in the symbolically named New Hampshire town of Unity.
The rally will be the first time the former rivals have shared a stage in public since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination earlier this month and began trying to mend the rifts caused by their epic 16-month campaign struggle.
The Illinois senator has tread cautiously in courting Clinton and her millions of supporters, including some still angry about the outcome of the Democratic race, as he tries to unify Democrats for November's election race against Republican John McCain.
He told reporters earlier this week he hoped the joint appearance in New Hampshire signaled an active role for the New York senator in his White House race.
"I want her campaigning as much as she can," Obama said. "She was a terrific campaigner. She, I think, inspired millions of people, and so she can be an extraordinarily effective surrogate for me and the values and ideals we share as Democrats."
Clinton, who returned to her Senate duties in Washington this week for the first time since dropping out of the Democratic race on June 7, offered strong praise for Obama during two public appearances on Thursday.
"I have seen his passion and determination and his grit and his grace," she told a nurse's association in Washington, asking them to back Obama.
Clinton introduced Obama to her top fundraisers at a private meeting in Washington on Thursday night. Obama already had asked his big donors to help her pay off more than $10 million she owes to campaign debtors.
Obama and his finance chair each gave Clinton a $2,300 check in a symbolic move to help her pay off her debt, Clinton's former campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, told CNN.
"Senator Obama personally gave me a check for Hillary Clinton. His finance chairwoman, Penny Pritzker, gave me a check for Hillary Clinton. So there were a lot of checks being exchanged tonight," McAuliffe said.
NO SMALL DONORS
But Obama will not ask his grass-roots list of 1.5 million donors to kick in on the Clinton debt.
"Small donors, you know, who were writing $5 or $10, or $15, $25 checks, first of all, their budgets are tighter," Obama said. "I'm not going to be individually contacting $15 donors, because frankly, it probably wouldn't be that effective in terms of making a big dent in Senator Clinton's debt."
Clinton, who entered the race in January 2007 a heavy favorite, battled Obama to the end of voting on June 3 in a race that embittered some of her supporters -- particularly some of the female backers who formed her core constituency.
Whether Obama can win over all of those supporters remains unclear, but many public opinion polls show him solidifying his Democratic backing in recent weeks and moving out to a clear national lead on McCain.
The tiny town of Unity in New Hampshire, near the Vermont border, was chosen for the rally not only for the obvious symbolism of its name but because the state will be a critical battleground in the race with McCain.
Democrat John Kerry narrowly captured New Hampshire in the 2004 race against Republican President George W. Bush, but Bush beat Democrat Al Gore there in a close race in 2000.
To enhance the symbolism, each Democratic candidate received exactly 107 votes in the town of Unity in the January 8 New Hampshire primary.
"I think we'll have a terrific time together in New Hampshire, and I think that she will be very effective all the way through November," Obama said.