New Jersey delegates react to Clinton appeal for unity

DENVER — The reaction of the New Jersey delegation to Hillary Clinton’s speech tonight seemed almost uniformly positive. Most said she hit the right notes. All found her message a unifying one.

And perhaps the message that resonated most with the delegation was Clinton’s emphasis that her supporters weren’t just pulling for her, but a message that she said Barack Obama shares.

“I think Hillary Clinton really hit all the right notes. She did a magnificent job reminding everyone – she asked her supporters the right question: did you work so hard just for me or was it for all the causes that we believe in,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, who was Barack Obama’s most prominent early backer in New Jersey. “If it was ‘not just for me,’ if it was for the causes we all believe in, then you must support Barack Obama as President.”

State Sen. Barbara Buono, who earlier today said that she might cry when she heard Hillary speak, said that “tears did come to my eyes. It was very emotional. But she called us to action to do the right thing, and there really is no choice. Obviously we have to do what’s right for our children and our grandchildren.”

Buono said that Clinton made her feel more comfortable with Barack Obama.

Democratic State Committeewoman June Fischer called the speech “absolutely perfect.”

“It was unifying, it was articulate, and with the wording she hit on every necessary target,” she said.

Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein, though a strong Clinton supporter, had decided he was going to support Obama well before tonight’s speech. But tonight, he said, something clicked.

“It took delegates like me, who are staunch Hillary supporters, and over the course of 20 minutes moved us into becoming staunch Obama supporters,” he said. “It’s one thing to say that I’m going to vote for Barack Obama in the fall. It’s another thing to say I’m going to do it with a full heart, and that’s what Hillary Clinton did for me tonight.”

One sober voice after the speech, however, was Rep. Bill Pascrell, who looked past the kind words with the view that deep wounds can’t be healed overnight.

“There’s no question in my mind that she had to touch every heart that cast a vote for her this year. But I will say this: it means that the Obama people in the campaign will have to reach out to the rank and file who supported Hillary in the campaign,” he said. “This has to be bottom up. You can’t think one speech is going to change the world around.”

New Jersey delegates react to Clinton appeal for unity