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The Clinton contribution Senator campaigning all-out for Obama

For the 65th time, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took to a stage Friday to plead with her admirers to vote for the man who beat her in the Democratic presidential primaries.

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden are for you -- and that is why I am for Barack Obama and Joe Biden!" she said in a hoarse, campaign-frayed voice to a group of elderly voters who cheered her every word in a downtown hotel here.

"There are only 11 days left, but 11 days can be a lifetime in presidential politics," the New York senator said. "So I am asking you to really go to work. . . . If you supported me, please support Barack Obama as strongly as you supported me."

Despite the bitter battle she lost for the Democratic nomination, Clinton has been delivering such pleas ever since the summer, making local headlines -- if not the national news -- in swing states across the country at events much like Friday's "Hot Dogs With Hillary" gathering.

It hasn't always been easy, Clinton conceded during an interview after Friday's event -- but she insisted she felt compelled to do everything she could to elect a Democratic president.

After narrowly losing to Obama, "it was hard," she said. "It took a period of time to try to catch up my sleep and get some exercise and resume normal human activity, which is something you don't do much of on the campaign trail.

"But as I said at the convention, I believe I was running for president to bring about the changes the country needs, in my opinion. And therefore, once I got my energy level back up, I wanted to be out here to make sureeverybody who supported me knew how important it was for them to support the Obama-Biden ticket."

Touting Obama is quite a turnaround for Clinton, who derided the Illinois senator as not much more than a speech-maker during their long primary battle. Clinton also famously ran a campaign ad questioning whether Obama was ready to be president.

>Cites need for Obama

But in the interview, Clinton said she had always had high regard for Obama -- and that she needs his help now.

"I ran for president because I thought that President Bush and the Republicans were wrecking our country -- and they were especially unhelpful when it came to upstate New York and all the economic concerns that I've been fighting for," she said. "And I have to have a Democratic White House so that I can push the agenda that I think is good for New York and America."

Clinton started traveling in support of Obama and other Democratic candidates on weekends over the summer and has stepped up her schedule in recent weeks now that Congress has adjourned.

The Obama campaign couldn't be happier about it.

"Hillary Clinton has been one of our most powerful assets on the campaign trail," said Bill Burton, the Buffalo native who serves as Obama's press secretary. "Her tireless work for Barack Obama has helped to make the case for the kind of fighter that he will be for the middle class, as president."

That message seems to be resonating with Clinton's former supporters. Interviewed at Friday's event, a dozen of them said they all had swung behind behind Obama.

Margaret Miller, 64, of Oakdale, Pa., proved to be a typical Obama convert.

"I was very skeptical at first. We heard all the rumors saying he was an Arab, but now we know better," said Miller, who added: "After getting to know Obama a little better and seeing his outlook for America, I decided he's the one."

In other words, the post-primary bitterness that spawned the "PUMAs" -- the Hillary supporters whose acronym stood for "Party Unity My (lower part of my anatomy)" -- virtually has dissolved.

Nate Silver, who runs the political Web site, noted that Democratic support for Obama is now stronger than Republican support for John McCain, the GOP nominee. Averaging the results of six tracking polls earlier this week, Silver found that 88 percent of Democrats back Obama, while 85.3 percent of Republicans back McCain.

Obama deserves credit for that, Silver wrote.

"Between his more populist talking points on the economy, the backlash to McCain's attacks, and -- I'm guessing here -- a deep level of antipathy among Democrats toward (GOP vice presidential nominee) Sarah Palin, . . . Obama has really brought the Democratic base home," Silver wrote.

But Clinton also deserves credit for bringing her supporters strongly in line with Obama, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said.

In addition to campaigning for Obama, Clinton has raised $10 million for the Democratic ticket and campaigned for or otherwise lent support to 75 Democratic candidates nationwide.

>'In touch' with candidate

"She's delivered for Obama in a huge way," Rendell said, contending that Clinton has done more for Obama than any losing candidate has ever done for a presidential nominee.

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, also has campaigned for Obama, though not nearly as often as the senator.

In addition, many Clinton campaign staffers have joined the Obama team, and the two former rivals talk on the phone "every so often," Clinton said.

"I try not to abuse the privilege, but, you know, I stay in touch with him," she said.

In the midst of it all, Clinton has returned to the Senate, where, in the past year, she won several New York-friendly amendments to the Farm Bill, helped pass a bill boosting manufacturing training and won passage of a bill that bolsters federal efforts to improve children's health screenings.

The Senate is exactly where Clinton sees her future, too.

Asked about her plans for the next few years, she said, "Working as hard as I can to be the best possible senator, being a leader in the Senate on what I believe we have to do on the economy and health care and energy and all the other hot-button issues."

Working to rebuild the state economy will be a top priority after the financial meltdown, Clinton said.

>Promises to help

Asked if she might run for president again, Clinton said, "I don't foresee running because I want to be a very effective partner in helping a Democrat be successful on behalf of my constituents and my country."

Predicting an Obama victory, she promised to help him in the White House as well as on the campaign trail.

"I'm just going to work as hard as possible to try to fix everything that's broken," she said.


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