Hillary, Obama vow to heal party wounds
Sunday, 30 March 2008

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have vowed the Democratic Party will heal its wounds, whoever wins their toxic White House race, and unite to thwart Republican John McCain, reports AFP.

The bitter rivals spoke up amid mounting concern among party leaders that the fiercely contested battle could scupper a golden chance to grab back the White House from a ragged Republican party, as the US economy staggers.

Clinton was asked while campaigning in North Carolina what she would say to Democrats who might consider voting for McCain, if their preferred candidate loses in the noxious party tussle. “Please think through this decision,” Clinton said. “It is not a wise decision for yourself or your country.”

“I intend to do everything I can to make sure we have a unified Democratic party ... when this contest is over and we have a nominee, we’re going to close ranks, we’re going to be united.” Obama, speaking to ABC News, admitted that whichever camp loses the race is likely to suffer “bruised feelings.”

“It’s tough ... we have been campaigning now for a long time. We have got very ardent supporters on both sides. “I don’t think we are hurt, long-term. I think short term, there is going to be work to do for the nominee to bring the party back together again,” Obama said.

“We are going to have to come together and remind ourselves that there is a heck of a lot bigger difference between either Senator Clinton or myself, and John McCain.”

Attempts by Clinton and Obama to protect their party from the fallout of their tense race came as top Democratic officials chafe at McCain’s advantage as he assembles a general election campaign largely unchallenged. Former Democratic candidate Senator Christopher Dodd, now an Obama supporter, said the party must quickly coalesce around its nominee.

“Over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion—instead of having this sort of drip on for the next five months—that is devastating in my view,” Dodd said.

Both candidates were laser-focused on remaining primaries. Obama was to spend the weekend barnstorming in Pennsylvania, which votes April 22, while Clinton’s schedule was packed with events in Indiana, which votes May 6.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll suggested that more than 20 percent of Clinton and Obama supporters would defect to McCain in November’s election if their favored Democrat fails to win the nomination.

Obama enjoys a virtually impregnable lead over Clinton among pledged delegates after 44 valid nominating contests. He has won roughly double the number of states and is ahead in the popular vote.

But Clinton has won most of the big states contested thus far, and due to the party’s complex rules for apportioning delegates, neither candidate can reach the magic number of 2,025 delegates necessary to wrap up the nomination at the Democrats’ August convention in Denver.

So the choice of standard-bearer could rest with nearly 800 “superdelegates,” party luminaries appointed to the convention to exercise their independent judgment. Earlier, Clinton and Obama sparred on the economy, rapidly becoming the number one issue in the campaign, and both hit out at McCain, claiming he had few ideas about how to head off a looming recession.

Obama said he would reform regulation of the “distorted” US financial system, as Clinton warned of a Japan-style economic depression.

Probing what Democrats see as a weak spot, the former first lady also warned McCain lacked the expertise to handle an emergency White House phone call about an economic crisis, using the same metaphor she used to attack Obama on national security. Obama meanwhile called for an additional 30 billion dollar stimulus package and called for more help for families stuck in the mortgage crunch.

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