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Hillary Clinton hands off her top bundler$ to Obama the victor

June 26, 2008 |  8:18 pm

Well, the first of two Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama unity fests went off pretty well tonight in Washington. Hillary Clinton and the eventual Democratic presidential primary victor Barack Obama

Except for Terry McAuliffe's story about the checks in his pocket. "We will do whatever it takes to win back the White House," clinton told her people.

About 200 of Clinton's top "bundlers," each of them responsible for having collected at least $100Gs for her 17-month-long unsuccessful campaign, gathered at the Mayflower Hotel.

McAuliffe, who talked with The Times' Peter Nicholas outside the closed session, said the goal was: "Get all of our top people together and let him talk to them. Gets them fired up for the general election."

According to Tom McMillen, a former congressman in attendance, the mood inside the ballroom was warm and receptive, especially when Obama pledged to help pay off Clinton's $10+million campaign debt. He said that prompted a standing ovation from the Clinton donors.

McMillen quoted the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee as saying, "Look, I'll enlist my supporters (to pay off the debt). We need to be unified, not distracted."

Obama told the crowd he'd personally given a check to Clinton. And McAuliffe said later he'd received $4,600 in checks, the maximum allowed, from Obama's finance chairman, Penny Pritzker, and her husband.

"I've got two checks in my pocket," McAuliffe said. But when reporters asked to see them,....

...he said he'd already handed them off. Which led to some confusion about who had given how much to whom. What became clear was that Obama and his wife, Michelle, had each donated the maximum $2,300 and the senator had also vowed to help erase her debt, stressing the importance of both Clintons' involvement in the general election.

McAuliffe quoted the Illinois senator as saying, "I need Hillary Clinton every day on the campaign trail. I need her out there campaigning. Therefore, I need to make sure her debt is retired."

McAuliffe also said Obama had visited ex-President Clinton at his New York home Monday and that Clinton, in Europe this week, had stated his willingness to "go 24/ win the White House."

When Obama took audience questions, the inevitable Hillary as vice president subject came up. Obama praised her "extraordinary campaign" and said they weren't going to negotiate on stage.

Asked the New York senator's mood, McAuliffe said, "She got 18 million votes. No one likes to lose. But she moves on." According to the respected Marc Ambinder, there were some edgy questions from audience members including a request for a formal convention roll call, which Obama said was part of his negotiations with Clinton.

Friday, the two senators will perform the same unity ritual for the cameras assembled in the small New Hampshire village of Unity. Here's Mike Dorning's take on this story over at the Swamp.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: AP