Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton plan a show of unity in this tiny New Hampshire town today, but much of the crowd that will be watching them, as well as Democrats throughout this swing state, isn't yet ready to follow their lead.
Many echo the view of veteran Claremont political activist Ray Gagnon, who said “this is a good first step,” but he's still less than enthusiastic.
The former rivals will campaign at Unity Elementary School, their first joint public appearance since the Illinois senator clinched his party's nomination earlier this month. On Thursday, Clinton resumed public and private campaigning to support the candidate who dashed her hopes of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. She lauded Obama for “his grit and his grace.”
The New York senator spoke to two trade groups before an evening meeting to introduce Obama to her most loyal fundraisers, while behind the scenes the two sides are working out details over the extent of her involvement with Obama's campaign.
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“I am asking you to do everything you can to help elect Barack Obama,” Clinton told the American Nurses Association, a 2.9-million member group that backed her candidacy. “I have debated him in more debates than I can remember and I have seen his passion and his determination and his grit and his grace. In his own life he has lived the American dream.”
Although the tone today will be upbeat, underneath the cheers will be the still-raw emotions of Clinton backers as well as the wait-and-see reservations of lots of Democrats still wanting to know more about Obama.
“I felt good about Hillary Clinton. I loved Bill Clinton. I thought he did a fantastic job,” said Tammy Dowd, a secretary from Unity.
Her impression of Obama?
“Inexperience,” she said.
In January's primary, Obama and Clinton each received 107 votes in Unity, population 1,715. Former N.C. Sen. John Edwards trailed with 78.
Obama has carefully said all the right things about Clinton in recent weeks, and his wife, Michelle, addressed a Manchester audience Thursday and raved about her one-time foe.
“Because of Hillary Clinton's work on issues of importance to women,” she said, “those issues are front and center in this election.”