WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her historic presidential campaign Saturday, endorsing former rival Barack Obama and urging her 18 million primary voters to finish the work they set out to do, by sending Obama to the White House.
“The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” Clinton told the crowd, at one point even adopting his slogan. “I am standing with Senator Obama to say, ‘Yes we can!’
“Today as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary campaign he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him and I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me,” the New York senator said as she brought her bid to become the nation’s first female president to a close.
At the National Building Museum, Clinton spoke at length directly to her female supporters, many of whom have said they are disappointed that Clinton’s trail-blazing bid was derailed by Obama, who would make history of his own as the nation’s first black president.
Clinton said she knows there are “barriers and biases out there, often unconscious” against women. But she said her campaign made clear that there will be a woman in the White House someday – that the barrier Clinton has called the highest glass ceiling in the land will be smashed.
“It’s got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before,” Clinton said to raucous applause.
“Could a woman really serve as commander in chief? Well, I think we answered that one. And could an African-American really be our president? Senator Obama has really answered that one,” she said.
Clinton supporters have urged Obama to place her on his ticket as the vice-presidential nominee, but Clinton made no mention of that Saturday.
She steered clear of any talk of her own plans – many supporters believe she might run again in 2012 should Obama lose – but made clear she expects to have a voice in the party, particularly on her signature issue of seeking universal health care.
“You have stood with me. And I will continue to stand strong with you every time, every place and every way I can. The dreams we share are worth fighting for,” Clinton said. “Until that day you’ll always find me on the front lines of democracy fighting for the future.”
Clinton has decided to suspend – not end – her presidential bid for technical reasons, because it allows her to continue to raise cash to pay off campaign debts that have grown to at least $20 million.
Obama’s campaign and party leaders were watching closely to see if Clinton would deliver the kind of full-on, no-strings-attached endorsement that would help Obama begin to heal the party, which splintered along racial, gender, age and income lines during their epic battle.
Clinton seemed to deliver, with an unequivocal endorsement of Obama, even if it did come in an address some in the party probably wish she had given Tuesday night, the night Obama crossed the threshold in delegates to become the nominee. Clinton had remained noncommittal about her plans until late Wednesday, when she put out word she would concede after several top Democrats, including Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, pressured her to make a speedy, and more graceful, exit.
As of now, there are no plans for a joint Obama-Clinton appearance but she stands ready to do it, her spokesman said.