UNITY, N.H. — Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton set off on their maiden political voyage on Friday, trading their rivalry from the presidential primary battle for a newfound display of harmony intended to set a fresh tone for any Democrats still harboring bitterness from their grueling duel.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Back Story With The Times’s Jeff Zeleny (mp3)
It was a day of choreographed unity — their destination was a rally here in this small western New Hampshire town — with the two senators appearing together before the cameras for the first time. Three weeks after suspending her campaign, Mrs. Clinton renewed her endorsement and pledged to do all she could to help Democrats win the White House in the fall.
“Unity is not only a beautiful place, it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Mrs. Clinton said. “I know what we start here in this field of unity will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.”
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton strode onto an outdoor stage here, arm-in-arm, waving to a friendly crowd. Their messages complemented one another, as did his blue tie and her blue pantsuit.
“For sixteen months,and I have shared the stage as rivals,” Mr. Obama said. “But today, I couldn’t be happier and more honored that we’re sharing it as allies in the effort to bring this country a new and better day.”
Here in Unity, the merging of the crowds did not go without a few momentary flaws. When the music was cued and the senators were introduced, they did not appear on stage. For several minutes, the crowd waited, their cheers gradually diminishing to an awkward silence.
The enthusiasm sparked anew when they finally arrived and walked past large letters that spelled U-N-I-T-Y.
Mrs. Clinton spoke first, with Mr. Obama sitting on a stool. His shirtsleeves rolled up, he listened intently and often led the applause at her remarks. The crowd, a mix of loyal supporters of Mr. Obama and die-hard admirers of Mrs. Clinton, broke into a chant of “Obama, Obama, Obama.” A few moments later, several women in the crowd led a chant of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”
“If you like the direction the country is going, then vote for, but if you think we need a new course, a new agenda, vote for Barack Obama,” Mrs. Clinton told the crowd. “To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.”
Mr. Obama implored Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to join the Democratic campaign. He praised the Clintons, saying: “I know how much we need both Bill and Hillary Clinton as a party and a country.” Echoing a line he heard from the crowd, he added, “She rocks. She rocks.”
The arrival of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton stirred something of a spectacle here, with hundreds of people turning out on the grounds of an old elementary school. The site was selected for the community’s symbolic name and the fact that both candidates received 107 votes in the town during the state’s primary in January.
If the purpose of the day was to telegraph a unified Democratic Party, images of that message were plentiful.
Their motorcades arrived simultaneously at an airport in Washington, where they exchanged a kiss and smiled as they stepped onto the same chartered plane. They sat in adjoining seats, chatting the whole flight to New Hampshire. Then, for more than an hour, they rode on the same bus to Unity.
On a sultry summer day, with the aroma of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs in the air, the rally took on the trappings of a political festival. A giant blue banner, “Unite for Change” provided a backdrop against a meadow of trees. Many of those in the crowd, who came from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and beyond, wore faded stickers of their favorite candidate.
The pleasantries, though, belied a litany of extenuating issues between the two former rivals.
Mrs. Clinton asked a Washington powerbroker lawyer, Robert Barnett, to help negotiate the talks, which include helping repay her campaign debt and securing a prominent spot at the party’s summer convention.
None of those details were discussed, at least in public, on Friday.
“Are you ready for change in Washington?” New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch asked the crowd, which answered with resounding approval.
The rally came one day after the two senators met at an invitation-only gathering Thursday evening in Washington. Mrs. Clinton invited Mr. Obama to meet her leading contributors (He brought a personal check of $2,300 as a goodwill gesture to help wipe away more than $12 million in debt for her campaign expenses.) and asked them to help Mr. Obama defeat Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.
“We have to make it a priority in our lives to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” Mrs. Clinton told her supporters, including many who came with their own checks for Mr. Obama’s campaign. “his was a hard-fought campaign. That’s what made it so exciting and intense and why people’s passions ran so high on both sides. I know my supporters have extremely strong feelings, and I know Barack’s do as well.
She added, “But we are a family, and we have an opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know what’s at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to win back this White House.”
For his part, Mr. Obama urged his supporters to help ease Mrs. Clinton’s debt and pave the way for her to become a leading surrogate for his campaign. There was no mention of whether she will be considered as a prospective running mate.
Terry McAuliffe, the campaign chairman for Mrs. Clinton, said it was time to get her contributors “fired up for the general election.” There was no time, he said, to look back.
“It was a great race. She got 18 million votes and she realizes what was accomplished,” Mr. McAuliffe said in an interview. “No one likes to lose, but you know what? She’s moved on.”
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