Clinton, Obama talks held without aides present

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Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton sat in comfortable chairs, sipped water and spoke for an hour about the presidential campaign to come. Just the two of them, without aides. And they parted laughing.

WASHINGTON%uFFFDAside from a fleeting backstage encounter in between their respective speeches to a pro-Israel group Wednesday, this was the first face-to-face meeting between Obama and Clinton since he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination and she moved to end her bid and endorse his candidacy. Neither Obama or Clinton have disclosed details of this meeting Thursday night at the home of a Senate colleague, Democrat Dianne Feinstein. But Feinstein told reporters Friday that Clinton called her Thursday afternoon and asked if she and Obama could meet at the California senator’s home. The two former rivals arrived and left separately, Feinstein said, and had no staff in the room with them as they talked. Feinstein showed them into her living room at 8 p.m., then left them alone and went upstairs to do her own work. “There was a desire on both sides, I think, to have a private meeting,” Feinstein said Friday. “They called me when it was over,” Feinstein said. “I came down and said, ‘Good night everybody, I hope you had a good meeting.’ They were laughing, and that was it.” On Friday, Clinton’s campaign said she would deliver her formal endorsement of Obama at a noon gathering at the National Building Museum and urge Democrats to unite behind his candidacy. Obama secured the 2,118 delegates needed to win the nomination Tuesday after primaries in Montana and South Dakota. At home in Chicago for the weekend, Obama made a surprise appearance Friday at a downtown rally promoting Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics and then gave the staff at his campaign headquarters a private pep talk. A reporter outside the closed session heard him say, “If I had lost Iowa, it would have been over.” Obama’s other remarks weren’t audible, but he was frequently interrupted by applause and cheering by staff members crowded into the room. Clinton spent much of Friday working on her concession speech with campaign manager Maggie Williams, media adviser Mandy Grunwald and strategist Mark Penn. Aides described the process as painstaking and emotional but said there was no question Clinton would enthusiastically endorse Obama in the speech. She also was holding a party at her Washington home Friday night to thank and bid farewell to her campaign staff. Clinton and Obama went to great lengths to keep their meeting a secret from the media beforehand. Obama “was very gracious,” said Feinstein, who had supported Clinton during the primaries. “He said he would go wherever, whenever Sen. Clinton wanted.” “This is a deeply personal time, too, you know,” Feinstein said. “Barack is trying to put things together for a major presidential campaign. There are a lot of decompression and nerve endings that need to come together.” One of Clinton’s top supporters, fellow New York Sen. Charles Schumer, said Friday that Clinton would agree to be Obama’s running mate if he offered the No. 2 spot to her. “She has said if Sen. Obama should want her to be vice president and thinks it would be best for the ticket, she will serve, she will accept that. But on the other hand, if he chooses someone else she will work just as hard for the party in November,” Schumer told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Schumer said the meeting between Clinton and Obama was not about the vice presidency. His comments came a day after a Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson denied reports that Clinton was actively campaigning to be on the ticket. “She is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her,” Wolfson said Thursday. “The choice here is Sen. Obama’s and his alone.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had remained uncommitted throughout the primaries, endorsed Obama Friday. Obama is “a once-in-a-generation leader who connects with the hopes and dreams of the American people and will deliver the long-overdue change that our country desperately needs,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement.

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Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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