So did Hillary Clinton succeed in putting to rest doubts about her willingness to throw herself fully behind Barack Obama’s candidacy? It certainly appeared that way. In an energetic, fiesty speech, she urged her supporters to back her one-time rival for the presidency. “You haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer throug more failed leadership,” she told them in her prime time speech. “No way. No how. No McCain. Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president.”
Whether her supporters actually fall in line now and throw their lot in with in Obama is critical: the fact that many of her supporters still say they aren’t sold on the Illinois Senator is a key reason the race is virtually tied between Obama and McCain. In a recent NBC/WSJ poll, 52% of Hillary’s backers said they have joined Obama’s camp, but another 21% now back McCain and 27% remain undecided. The McCain campaign has now begun actively wooing those voters.
Clinton spent much of the speech enumerating the reasons she ran for President -- and why those reasons mean all her disappointed backers must now unite behind the Illinois Senator. And in doing so, she also helped with her her other big job: to drive home the economic message the Obama campaign is trying to get across this week: that Obama, not McCain is the candidate best able to "rebuild the middle class and sustain the American Dream." She also drew a sharp contrast between the policies Obama offers up with those of McCain, with more than a hint of the populism that's been a feature of the campaign. "We need to elect Barack Obama because we need a President who understands that America can't compete in a global economy by padding the pockets of energy speculators, while ignoring the workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas."
In her big night under the Democratic klieg lights, Hillary Clinton did what Barack Obama needed her to do. Now, Obama will have to wait to see if her supporters do the same.