Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama met privately with Senator Hillary Clinton last night as the two rivals launched an effort to heal the deep rifts in the Democratic Party after their hard-fought primary race ended with Obama's victory this week.
Obama's communication director, Robert Gibbs, told reporters that Obama and Clinton met somewhere in Washington, but he did not provide details. The
"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November," the two campaigns said in a joint statement.
Earlier in the day, seeking to tamp down a push by supporters to force her onto the ticket with Obama, Clinton issued a statement saying that she is not vying to be vice president and that the decision is Obama's to make.
"While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her," Clinton's campaign said in a statement, first provided to The New York Times. "The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."
The statement followed an aggressive push by some of Clinton's leading backers - including members of Congress, top financial contributors, and advisers - for Obama to tap her as his number two as a way to unite the divided party. Clinton herself, in a conference call with fellow New York lawmakers earlier this week, reportedly said she would be open to the idea.
But in the so-called veepstakes, publicly vying for the job is considered impolitic and the wrong way to get picked. Thus Clinton's disavowal of her supporters' efforts should not be read as a definitive statement that she would refuse an invitation to run with Obama.
The Illinois senator, asked about the possibility of asking Clinton to join the ticket, repeated yesterday what he has been saying for weeks - that Clinton "would be on anybody's short list," but that it was far too soon to make judgments about a running mate.
"I have nothing but respect for Senator Clinton and what she's going to contribute to this party," Obama said in an interview with CNN. But, he said, "Everybody just needs to settle down. We just completed this arduous process."
Obama called the selection of a running mate "the most important decision that I will make before I am president," and said he would be "deliberate and systematic about it because this will be my final counselor when I am making decisions in the White House, and I want to make sure I get it right."
He added, "I am a big believer in making decisions well, not making them fast and not responding to pressure."
Scott Helman can be reached at email@example.com. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.