Mrs Clinton endorses Obama, adopts his slogan and bids for VP

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Hillary Clinton threw her ”full support” behind Barack Obama on Saturday and urged her supporters to do the same as she ended her bid to become America’s first woman president.

By Andrew Ward in Washington

”I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run,” she told thousands of supporters in her concession speech in Washington.

Her withdrawal removed the final barrier to Mr Obama becoming the first black presidential nominee of a major US political party and heralded the start of efforts to reunify the Democratic party after a protracted and often acrimonious race.

The former first lady was widely criticised for her failure to acknowledge Mr Obama’s victory after the final Democratic primaries on Tuesday, when she instead gave a defiant speech pressing her claim to have won a bigger share of the popular vote.

At her farewell rally on Saturday, however, Mrs Clinton sought to erase any doubt that the race was over as she formally endorsed the Illinois senator and promised to help him beat John McCain, the Republican candidate, in November.

”I will work my heart out to make sure that Barack Obama is our next president and I hope that all of you will join me in that effort,” she said, urging supporters to work ”as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me”.

Adopting one of her former rival’s campaign slogans, she added: ”Today, I’m standing with Senator Obama to say, ‘yes we can’.”

Mrs Clinton’s calls for unity behind Mr Obama met with largely perfunctory applause and scattered boos from her supporters in the cavernous main hall of the National Building Museum, highlighting the bitter divisions created by their epic 17-month battle. ”We all know this has been a tough fight but the Democratic party is a family and now it is time to restore the ties that bind us together,” she implored.

Seeking to banish questions about her desire to see Mr Obama elected, Mrs Clinton said November was a ”turning point election” and warned that Democrats must not ”allow this moment to slip away”.

Mrs Clinton’s allies have launched an aggressive push to persuade Mr Obama to choose her as running mate and parts of her speech on Saturday sounded like an audition for the vice-presidential nomination. ”The changes we are working for are changes we can only accomplish together,” she said. ”As we join forces with Senator Obama and his campaign we will make history together as we write that next chapter in American history.”

Mrs Clinton highlighted the 18m Democrats who had voted for her during the primaries but she was more magnanimous towards her former rival than in Tuesday’s grudging speech in New York. ”I have had a front row seat to his candidacy and have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit,” she said.

”Every moment we spend looking back keeps us from moving forward,” she told supporters. ”Life is too short, time is too precious and the stakes are too high to dwell on what could have been. We have to work together on what still could be.”

The New York senator said that, despite falling short of the nomination, her candidacy had proved that a woman could become president. ”The path will be easier next time,” she added.

The Financial Times

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