UNITY, N.H. – A remarkable event, and well-staged.
Hillary Clinton showed up in a blue pantsuit. Barack Obama was jacketless, with a blue tie.
Clinton was first to the mic, in front of a lively crowd of thousands gathered on gently sloping grass next to the local elementary school. A large old-style sign, perhaps 25 feet tall, spelled out “Unity” at one side of the arena –just in front of a huge, crane-hoisted American flag.
Unity, Clinton said, is not just a beautiful place but a “wonderful feeling.” She looked forward to Barack Obama taking the oath of office. He looked a bit bashful on his stool.
She said that Obama will need more Democratic senators when president, one of whom she reckons will be Jeanne Shaheen.
She said that New Hampshire has a “special place” in her heart and that it will come to have a special place in Obama’s heart. Then, a big soundbite about how they will stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” from now on.
She said she is proud that she and Obama had “a spirited dialogue,” then added, “That’s the nicest way I could think of phrasing it.”
Genuine laughter from crowd.
She went on to echo her well-received concession speech in Washington, praising Obama’s “grace and his grit,” talking about their commonalities and how they are part of “one America.”
A small group of women, not unified, began chanting, “We want Hillary”. Counter-shouters: “It’s over!”
Disunity did not escalate.
Clinton moved on to those 107 votes cast in Unity for each candidate in the primary. “Each vote was a prayer for our nation,” she said.
She moved on to McCain. After saying that both she and Obama respected his heroic service to his country, she said that he and George Bush are “two sides of the same coin and it doesn’t amount to a whole lot of change.”
Of supporters of hers who are now potential non-voters or McCain voters, she said she “strongly urges” them to “reconsider.”
“I hope you’ll work as hard for Barack Obama as you did for me,” she said.
As soon as she finished, the crowd began chanting “Thank you Hillary,” urged on, briefly, by Obama.
As he took the mic, he joked they must have had “a peek” at the opening line of his speech.
He thanked her. Then, speaking quietly, he talked about the “honor” of sharing a stage with her. And he called her “one of the finest senators New York has ever seen.”
A woman in the crowd yelled “Hillary rocks.” Obama immiediately replied: “She rocks. She rocks. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”
He talked, significantly, about how much the country needs both her and Bill Clinton, both during the election and beyond.
”We need them, we need them badly, not just my campaign, but the American people…in the months and years to come.
He went to talk about how Hillary Clinton had shattered barriers, and had made it possible for girls, including his daughters, to “take it for granted” that women could accomplish anything.
“Women can do anything the boys can do and do it better, and do it in heels,” he said. “I still don”t know how she does it in heels.”
He said that the 107 votes for each of them now amounted to “214 votes for change in America.”
He turned to general-election stump language, and got big applause for his standard “end the war in Iraq” passage. Environment and energy got louder applause than healthcare. (A New Hampshire thing, perhaps?)
He said the election against John McCain isn’t about left versus right but about “the past versus the future.”
Then: “I promise you that if all of you are willing…to organize and mobilize then we are not just going to change this country but we will change the world.”
After a final thank you to Hillary, he put his arm around her as they waved to the crowd. She was clearly leading, and he followed.
She quickly stepped off the stage and down the stairs while Obama stayed up there, for an awkward moment, and sipped a bottle of water. When he stepped off, he went stage right while she shook hands stage left.
They are still working the crowd.