Mrs. Clinton reminded her listeners that he had been elected, twice, an unusual feat for a Democrat in the last few decades, although she did not mention him by name, calling him only someone “I know.”
The crowd got it, and applauded. And Mr. Obama mentioned him too, in a welcoming way, saying the party and the country needed both her and and Mr. Clinton.
Anyway, the Senators had good timing. The skies have opened again and now it’s pouring rain. All the electrical power channeled into Unity for this event has been knocked out, and access to the Internet has more or less vanished.
(See the related article by our colleague Jeff Zeleny. He also blogged today about the Clintons’ donation to the Obama campaign.)
3:15 p.m. | Hillary’s Women: So we just met up with a couple of die-hard Clinton supporters who said this unity event had not persuaded them to back Mr. Obama.
Carmella Lewis, 57, a retired ad saleswoman and a Clinton delegate from Denver, was carrying a big “Hillary” sign. She came all the way from Colorado for the event, even though she didn’t believe in it, because she wanted to convey her support to Mrs. Clinton.
“As a politician, she’s got to try to bring the party together,” Ms. Lewis said. “But I have a gut feeling that something’s going to happen so that she becomes the nominee.” She said she would not vote for Mr. Obama and that when he spoke, she stuffed her ears with tissue.
She said that Mrs. Clinton spotted her sign in the crowd and pointed to her and waved. And later, she had Mrs. Clinton autograph her sign and told her, “You’re going to be the next president” and Mrs. Clinton smiled.
Her friend, Freda Smith, 79, a former state representative from Salem, N.H., said Mr. Obama was “not qualified” to be president. “We don’t know anything about him,” she said. “He talks about change, but he never says exactly what he means.”
But many more in the crowd said they were entirely happy with Mr. Obama and pleased with Mrs. Clinton’s support.
Dan Wasserman, 59, a darkroom technician from Massachusetts, said he found her speech convincing and even thought it was better than Mr. Obama’s. But he said he’s ready to vote for Mr. Obama.
His wife, B.J. Roche, 53, a lecturer in journalism at the University of Massachusetts, said she was always an Obama fan because she opposed the war in Iraq and would never have favored someone who voted for it, like Mrs. Clinton.
“I thought she was fabulous today, and it must have been hard,” she said. “But I don’t get her supporters. I don’t get their anger. Obama did win.”
3 p.m. | Obama’s Turn: He began by lavishing praise on Mrs. Clinton, who stood next him for the duration of his speech (sitting on stools can be awkward for women).
He said he couldn’t be more honored to share the stage with her, and he too referred to their past combat. “I know firsthand how good she is,” he said, how tough, passionate and committed she is, even when she’s facing the toughest of odds and “the most vicious attacks.”
As he continued in this vein, saying he has admired her as a leader and learned from her as a candidate, someone in the audience yelled out, “Hillary rocks!”
“She rocks!” Mr. Obama said. “She rocks. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”
And in the midst of his praise for her, he slipped in a welcome to Bill Clinton, referring to “how much we need both Bill and Hillary, as a party, as a country.”
He then responded to her earlier come-on for someone to suggest she couldn’t possibly have been at this for four decades. “I don’t think it’s been 40 years,” he said, and she motioned as if to say, more, more. “We need them, we need them badly,” he said, again including Mr. Clinton, “not just my campaign, but the American people in the months and years to come.”
He also had a little riff on what an inspiration Mrs. Clinton’s campaign had been to his daughters. Now they know, he said, “they can do anything the boys can do. And do it better. And do it in heels. I still don’t know how she does it in heels. I don’t know,” he said, the crowd laughing.
Mr. Obama turned a bit to his stump speech, saying “this is our chance to turn the page on the policies of the last seven and a half years.”
He asked the crowd if they were willing to join him “and you are willing to join Hillary Clinton,” then this is the chance to not just attend rallies but knock on doors, talk to friends, organize and mobilize.
He finished after about 20 minutes, again focusing on Mrs. Clinton, and they posed for another money shot, with the wave. She stepped down off the
stage first while he stayed up there, sipped some water and waved.
They both plunged into the crowd to shake hands as his campaign theme song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” played, with new resonance.
As the two worked their way through the crowd and the field emptied out, clouds gathered over the little town of Unity, a cooler wind blew and splashed the area with a quick dose of rain.
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in Unity, N.H. (Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)
2 p.m. | Shoulder to Shoulder: At 1:20, they popped up from the crowd, Mrs. Clinton in a blue suit, Mr. Obama in a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up and a blue tie (nice coordination!).
It wasn’t until 22 minutes later that we had the money shot, where the two put their arms around each other and waved to the crowd. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
As Mr. Obama sat on a stool to the side, Mrs. Clinton began with, “Hello, Unity,” and a broader, “Hello, New Hampshire.” She said that unity was “a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” What is starting in this field, she said, “will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.”
Without saying that she had won the New Hampshire primary, she telegraphed it by saying the state “has a special place in my heart and I’m here today so that come November, New Hampshire will have a special place in Barack Obama’s heart as well.”
This was a hard-fought primary, she said, as Mr. Obama smiled. “We have gone toe-to-toe in this hard-fought primary, but today and every day going forward we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share, the values we cherish and the country we love.” And she added, “we may have started on separate paths, but our paths have merged today.”
She referred to their “spirited dialogue” during the campaign, and as the audience chuckled, she ad-libbed, “that was the nicest way I could think of to phrase it.”
She said she had a front-row seat to Mr. Obama’s candidacy and saw his strength, determination, grace and grit. As the audience chanted “Obama, Obama,” he motioned to her, and they started chanting, “Hillary, Hillary.”
When Mrs. Clinton referred to her work of four decades in public life, she said to the audience, “this is when someone is supposed to yell, ‘I don’t believe it,’” and coyly coiffed her hair, a line and gesture that will no doubt resonate with her base.
She also got in a little plug for her husband, who is not here, referring to the flourishing economy of the 90s.
Listing the disasters of the Bush administration, she said: “We cannot let this moment slip away.”
And she spoke directly to the women who supported her and some of whom say they will not vote for Mr. Obama or not vote at all. “I strongly urge you to reconsider,” she said.
As her speech passed the 18-minute mark, Mr. Obama folded his arms across his chest, although he still looked attentive and stood and cheered, after 22 minutes, when she concluded.
There was the unity photo op. They pecked each other on the cheek, posed and waved, and then seemed to talk intimately. He leaned down to whisper something, as she laughed.
(Much has been made of how much of a merger will be forged between the two campaigns’ staffs. Minutes after Mr. Obama concluded his speech, his campaign announced that one of the top Clinton policy gurus, Neera Tanden, would be brought on board. And it also said it would add another woman, Melody Barnes, from the Center for American Progress.)
1:19 p.m. | They’re Working the Line: The program began about 12:30, with a couple of local members of Congress, then Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor and current candidate for the Senate. She gave a nod to Mrs. Clinton’s historic candidacy, and referred to what she indicated was a sexist media. She said when she was first running for office, she was referred to as Betty Crocker. She thanked Mrs. Clinton “for proving a woman can win the highest office in the country and for paving the way for female candidates.”
Gov. John Lynch spoke, and then … nothing happened. The sound system covered the gap with “Only in America,” then “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher,” and “I’ll Take You There” and from there we lost track, wondering why this big moment wasn’t better choreographed so the Senators could ride in on some momentum. It wasn’t clear what the holdup was (one of our colleagues in the press joked that perhaps they were in the wings discussing the vice presidency).
After about 15 minutes, the honorary mayor of Unity came out (we didn’t catch his name) and confessed that he is a life-long Republican and said he voted for Senator John McCain in the primary. Then, he added, “But I may be part of this change,” drawing a big applause. He introduced Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.
They’ve been moving along through the crowd, shaking hands along the way.
People waited for Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in Unity, N.H. (Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)
1:10 p.m. | Facts on Unity: While we’re waiting for the main event, Jack Begg, one of our crack researchers, put together a few facts about this town:
Location: Sullivan County
Population: 1,715 (est.)
Land Area: 37 sq. miles
Type of Government: Board of Selectmen
Chairman: Willard Hathaway
Municipal Budget: $2,374,351 (2006)
Civilian Labor Force: 763 (2006)
Largest Employer: Sullivan County Health Care (nursing home)
Other Employers: Sullivan County Jail
Place of Interest: Quaker Meeting House
Convenience Store: Will’s Place
School: Unity Elementary School
Name Inspired By: Resolution of 18th-century land dispute
2008 Presidential Primary Vote
Republicans: John McCain: 81; Mitt Romney: 70; Mike Huckabee: 21; Ron Paul: 21; Rudy Giuliani: 20
Democrats: Clinton: 107; Obama: 107; Edwards: 78
Next Big Event: Old Home Day (July 26)
12:30 p.m. | On the Scene:
Thousands of people are here now, standing in the field and sitting on bleachers on this very hot afternoon.
When we arrived, we found hundreds of people standing in very long lines, all slowed down by having to go through metal detectors (and now many of them are standing in line for the porta-potties). The Obama/Clinton motorcade is still wending its way here, so it will be a while before the show gets under way.
It’s really hot here, and those of us spending this bright, sunny day squinting into our computers are resorting to different tactics just to try to see the screen (but are grateful to Soapbox for the wireless Internet access, even if it’s spotty).
Jill Lawrence from USA Today has draped a jacket over her head and her computer to block out the light. Yours truly is crouched under a table, which means I can see my computer but nothing else. (Hey, life is full of tradeoffs.) Sridhar Pappu, a political reporter for the Washington Independent, has joined us in the shade under the table.
Already, a second person has fainted. One woman was wheeled out on a stretcher. They’re attending to the second right now.
When Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton arrive, they will stand on a makeshift dais in the field here, with a backdrop of trees, sky and a banner with a new slogan: “United for Change.” The Obama campaign’s standard slogan, of course, is “Change we can believe in.”
Aluminum bleachers are set up around the dais, so there are some people in the backdrop shot too. Many are Mrs. Clinton’s demo of older white women, who are not hard to spot in this crowd. There are lots of white men too. (New Hampshire is not known for its diversity of ethnicities.) At the moment, they are practicing the wave.
One person who came to catch the unity show is David Buchdahl, 61, who works in administration at Community College of Vermont.
He voted in the primary for Mrs. Clinton, mainly, he said, because his wife is a strong Clinton supporter and he wanted to “keep unity in the home,” although their (grown) children support Mr. Obama.
He said he was happy to vote for Mr. Obama but came today because he thought there might be a “one-in-a-million chance” that Mr. Obama would announce that he is asking Mrs. Clinton to be his vice president, “and if I missed it, I’d feel like I missed an amazing historical event.” He said his wife, who could not be here today, is still upset about sexism in the media against Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Buchdahl cast a skeptical eye on the whole unity thing, noting that it had only been three weeks since Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign. “Both are consummate politicians and will do what they need to do to move things forward,” he said, sounding a bit like a pol himself.
We also chatted with Charles and Susan Gaylord, who drove about two hours from Newburyport, Mass. Mr. Gaylord, 57, an electrician, is the feminist in the family and supported Mrs. Clinton, while Mrs. Gaylord, 56, an artist, supported Mr. Obama.
“I feel fine,” Mr. Gaylord said about voting for Mr. Obama now. “It was a good race. Now, a landslide is what we’re looking for.”
We saw a lot of campaign signs for Jeanne Shaheen, the state’s former governor who’s running against Republican Senator John Sununu. She just finished speaking here.
An aside: Blue is the color of the day? TV commentators are noting that Senator Obama’s tie matches the blue of Senator Clinton’s outfit.
And F.Y.I., MSNBC has live video coverage of the event at its site.
(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
10:30 a.m. | On Board the Bus: We’re now waiting in a yellow school bus to be shuttled about 10 miles from Claremont to the Unity rally, and the bus driver is trying to get directions.
From here, about 500 people are snaked in a line in the hot sun on a lawn and in the parking lot, waiting to get on board shuttle buses. Traffic is heavy, with cars sporting Vermont as well as New Hampshire plates arriving here.
Two Obama campaign aides — our “bus leaders” — are advising us — mostly supporters and just a few journalists — that we will go through metal detectors once we arrive. Patience is the word of the morning, with one aide repeatedly asking supporters to be patient as they will have to wait for buses to bring them back here after the rally.
“Let’s be enthusiastic!” one aide shouts, with loud cheering from those on our bus as he urges them to get out there and help defeat John McCain.
(Our colleague Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the candidates, and filed this report from the plane. They’re en route now in a motorcade from the airport in Manchester to Unity.)
9 a.m. | The Scene: Hi, Caucus readers,
We’re up in Unity, New Hampshire today, scene of the first “let’s get together” rally for Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It’s supposed to start around 1 p.m. today, but that could mean 2 p.m.
In any case, the appearance is taking place on the grounds of one of the tiniest elementary schools you’ve ever seen (115 students, K-8).
Here’s what struck us as we stared out at the playing fields next to the school last night, as a chilly mist stratified the pines and mosquitoes dive-bombed us from head to toe: If you build it, they will come.
There’s a double-meaning to that:
If Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton can build unity with each other, voters will come.
Then there’s the more literal meaning, along the lines of “Field of Dreams.” This was just a vast empty field of grass (not corn) until a few days ago. School was over, and the teachers and children had torn down all the student art work and maps from the walls, tossed them into a big trash heap, and were clearing everything out.
Then word came that the Obama campaign had picked Unity as the setting for the first public event for victor and vanquished. (Local legend has it that Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire state senator and Clinton supporter, planted the seed of having the event in Unity because she had noticed after the primary in January that both candidates won 107 votes here — you can’t make this stuff up.)
So the school and the Obama campaign went about building a place for everyone to come. The faculty put all the pictures and maps back up on the walls of the little school, which will serve as holding rooms for the senators.
The Obama campaign delivered four or five massive sets of aluminum bleachers and scores of folding tables and chairs for the media (behind the bleachers, naturally, so getting a view may be difficult).
They trucked in a few bright green porta-potties and miles of connecting steel gates so they can channel people in the right direction. And the Kiwanis Club set up grills because it plans to sell 1,000 hot dogs, 1,000 hamburgers and gallons and gallons of water and soda. So yes, they built it, and the Obama camp hopes 5,000 people will come.
That’s at least twice as many people as live in Unity, where population counts vary from about 1,100 to 1,715. It’s basically a rural two-lane blacktop that meanders up and down verdant hills, past pines and stately maples and an occasional house and, of course, the elementary school.
Down the road is Will’s Place (“worms and crawlers”), and farther down the road, a town hall, library, historical society and town clerk’s office. There’s no traffic light, post office, hotel or high-speed Internet.
“There will be more people in the field tomorrow than will go through the town in a day,” said Susan Schroeter, a school teacher and a Kiwanis member, who chatted with us last night as she lugged bricks of cheese into the school’s re-started fridge. Workmen nearby were stringing up phone lines and power cords. They also wheeled in giant lights, in case the stars of the show need a little illumination (i.e. if these early morning clouds don’t disappear).
We asked Ms. Schroeter if this get-together meant there really would be unity between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. She looked shocked, as if we had suggested she move to Vermont, and then said in a stage whisper, “I’m glad there’s no camera to see my face.”
The name Unity came from a land dispute, which was settled in the mid-1700s. Not much action since then, according to Bonnie Miles, a Kiwanis member from nearby Claremont.
The last big event that anyone could remember happening in Unity, she said, was an Arlo Guthrie concert some time in the 70s.
The town, such as it is, is now shut down, quarantined, if you will, by the Secret Service. There’s no room for anyone to park, so the Obama campaign has arranged for several shuttle buses to bring people (and the media, except for sound trucks) in from staging areas at least 10 miles away.
Everyone will start converging on the field about 11 a.m. We’ll be there and will report back on the scene as things develop.