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Democrats Turn to Unifying Party After Primaries

With the nomination in Sen. Barack Obama's hands and Sen. Hillary Clinton planning her formal exit from the race, Democratic leaders are eyeing the general election. A panel of lawmakers and analysts discuss how to bring the party together after the divisive primaries.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, with this year's contentious Democratic primary fight finally poised to come to an end, the question on many Democrats' minds is how to heal the rifts within the party.

    For that, we are joined by Ellen Malcolm, she's president of Emily's List, a Democratic fundraising group for women candidates that had backed Senator Clinton.

    We're also joined by two senators. Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, he served as Hillary Clinton's national campaign co-chair. And Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, he backed Barack Obama.

    Gentlemen, senators, and Ellen Malcolm, thank you all for being with us.

    Senator Bayh, I'm going to start with you. As a longtime supporter of Senator Clinton, are you now prepared to support Senator Obama?

    SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), Indiana: Absolutely, Judy. I was very strongly for Hillary, but I was never against Barack. He's a very impressive individual, ran a great campaign, and Lord knows the country needs a change.

    The economy's not doing as well as it should. We need a better strategy in Iraq. We need more working together and reconciliation in this capital, and that's something that he's been very good at.

    So, yes, I can give him my wholehearted support.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Ellen Malcolm, you and your organization, Emily's List, long supported Senator Clinton. Are you going to turn your support to Senator Obama?

  • ELLEN MALCOLM, Emily‚Äôs List:

    Well, we are. I think there is such a vast difference between where Senator Obama is on issues and Senator John McCain. We will all unite and try to win the general election.

    I think it's going to take a lot of time. Certainly, there are a lot of women that are very disappointed, and sad, and angry and are processing their own emotions about this. But we've got a long ways to go to November. I think we will come together, and I think it's going to be a good year for Democrats.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Senator Casey, what are you hearing? You've obviously been supporting Senator Obama since before the primary in your state of Pennsylvania. But what are you hearing from other Democrats in Pennsylvania, which went for Senator Clinton by, what, almost 10 points over Senator Obama, and from other Democrats, for that matter?

    SEN. BOB CASEY (D), Pennsylvania: Well, what I'm hearing in Pennsylvania I think you're hearing across the country. Democrats across the country know that this is an opportunity for change, and we can't allow even a very tough, competitive race to divide us. We've got to come together; we have to unify.

    And I think we will, because I think most Democrats realize that the question now before the American people is: Are we going to have a third term for President Bush and his policies, which means a war without end in Iraq, the same tax cuts for wealthy Americans at a time of war, and votes against children's health insurance, for example?

    Or are we going to change and take a different path? I think Senator Obama represents that change, but I think Democrats and a lot of Republicans and independents want us to take that different path.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But how hard do you think that's going to be, Senator Casey? We heard Ellen Malcolm just now say a lot of these women, in particular, sad, disappointed, even angry.

  • BOB CASEY:

    Well, I think that's understandable. Whenever you have a campaign that is so competitive and so close, you're going to have that. And I don't think unity comes with one event or in one week or in one day. It's a process; it will take time.

    But I think we all have to work towards it. The candidates do, both of the candidates who were running. Their campaigns and their staff have to work at it. And public officials, like me and others who were supporting either candidate, have to work at this and bring people together.

    What we're getting this week, though, I think is some clarity and also, I think, the beginnings of some consensus that will begin to start the reconciliation process.

    But I think in a matter of weeks, and certainly in the next couple of months, we'll achieve the kind of unity that we need to prevent that third term for President Bush and elect Senator Obama.