Clinton bows out, urges supporters to back Obama

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton ended her presidential campaign Saturday, thanking the 18 million voters who sent her to the doorstep of history, and then urging them to help carry Barack Obama over the threshold to the White House.

"Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company," Clinton told cheering supporters at the National Building Museum in Washington.

"The way to continue our fight now . . . is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

The New York senator, who came the closest of any woman in history to winning a major party presidential nomination, was joined by her mother; her husband, former President Bill Clinton; and their daughter Chelsea.

She saluted her own supporters, saying that she drew votes from "all walks of life, women and men, young and old, Latino and Asian, African American and Caucasian, rich, poor and middle class, gay and straight."

She noted her support from older women and the historic nature of her own campaign, the first by a woman to come close to winning a major party nomination. The so-called glass ceiling that keeps women from reaching the top, she said, now has "18 million cracks in it."

"I will continue to stand strong with you every time, every place that I can," she said. "The dreams we share are worth fighting for."

She said that she and Obama share the same dreams of expanding health care and ending the war in Iraq.

"This has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family," she said. "Our paths have merged, and we're all heading toward the same destination."

Supporters started lining up at dawn under a scorching sun, many of them women of her generation who flocked to her campaign and were her steadiest and most loyal supporters.

There also were some Obama supporters, who said they came to show party unity.

Clinton held a party at her Washington home Friday for her staff, after spending the day writing her speech with longtime advisers Mandy Grunwald, Mark Penn and Maggie Williams.

She met Obama face-to-face for an hour Thursday night at the Washington home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, a Clinton supporter who offered her home as a getaway from the news media.

Aides said the two didn't specifically discuss the vice presidency, but Clinton has said that she'd be willing to take the number-two spot on the ticket, and supporters are behind a Web site pushing for an Obama-Clinton ticket.

As Clinton ceded the stage to him, Obama took the weekend off at home in Chicago, saying he planned to go on a date with his wife, Michelle.