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Obama Meets with Clinton After Va. Campaign Stop

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton held a private meeting Thursday night in Washington. A spokesman for Obama says it was a chance for the two to talk about "bringing their campaigns together in unity." Obama attended the meeting after a day of campaigning in Virginia, where Democrats hope to re-draw the political map in November.

Last night's meeting was the first chance for the Democratic rivals to have an extended conversation since Obama clinched his party's nomination on Tuesday. They tried to keep it quiet. Obama ditched his usual press entourage before the meeting. But he has been praising Clinton at every opportunity, and he makes no secret of reaching out to her supporters.

"We're going to speak to them, but also listen to them, get advice," Obama said. "They did very well in a number of states where we need help. And we're going to try, with all humility, to seek their support and figure out how we can all work together to win in November."

Obama's first campaign stop as his party's presumptive nominee was Virginia, a Southern state that has not gone Democratic in a presidential race since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

On a hot, sticky night in northern Virginia, thousands of people filled an outdoor amphitheater to celebrate Obama's primary win and hear his plans for boosting the economy, making college more affordable and ending the war in Iraq.

"I am here to say to you, Virginia, let the work begin. Let us start right now building that better future," Obama said.

Obama also held a town hall meeting devoted to health care in southwestern Virginia. That part of the state has been reliably Republican, but Democrats believe Obama could carry Virginia with a larger turnout of African-American voters and a strong showing in the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. Virginia Democrats have won statewide races for the Senate and the governor's office in recent years, and Gov. Tim Kaine told Obama's supporters that it is time to extend that winning streak.

"I want you to put on your running shoes, I want you to open your checkbooks. We're going to make this happen. We're going to make history in Virginia," Kaine says.

Obama was also joined at the rally by Sen. Jim Webb, a Democratic superdelegate who had remained neutral until now. Webb and Kaine have both been mentioned as possible running mates for Obama. Bonita Brown, who was listening in the audience, says she is confident the Democrats can carry her state.

Brown concedes the long primary campaign took a toll on the party, but she is convinced that any hard feelings will quickly pass.

"I think the reality is some might be a little upset right now," Brown says. "But the reality is we have had enough of the Republicans. It's time for a change. It's time for something new and different."

Clinton is planning to announce her formal support for Obama on Saturday. Both Democrats say the differences between them are small, compared to their differences with Republicans. GOP candidate Sen. John McCain is campaigning in the battleground state of Florida on Friday, where he plans to tour the Everglades in an airboat. At a meeting of Florida newspaper editors on Thursday, McCain was grilled for voting against funding for Everglades restoration. McCain argued the measure was part of an overloaded spending bill.

"If we start piling on project after project — some of them, as I said, good, and some of them bad, as I was just mentioning about the earmark process — then spending gets completely out of control," McCain said.

McCain telephoned Obama earlier this week to congratulate him on securing his party's nomination. Obama says they joked about how unlikely it would have seemed a year ago that either of them would be on a presidential ticket. Both men say they hope to wage a respectful contest, with no demonizing or Internet innuendo. First, though, Obama says he plans to take the weekend off, go on a date with his wife and a bike ride with his two daughters.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.