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Clinton: Retire My Debt!

Even as Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton plan for their first joint appearance of the general election campaign on Friday, the New York senator is beginning a formal push to erase the substantial debt accrued during the primaries.

In an email to supporters this morning entitled "Keeping My Promise," Clinton reiterates her pledge to "keep fighting for what we believe in -- in the Senate and on the campaign trail, helping to elect a new Democratic president and a bigger Democratic majority in Congress."

In order to focus full time on doing that, however, Clinton asks her backers to pay down the more than $10 million in debts she carries to a variety of vendors and individuals involved in her presidential campaign.

"We put everything we had into winning this race, and we came just about as close as you can," Clinton writes. "I will never regret the energy, effort, and passion we put into one of the closest and most expensive primary contests in history. But I need your help to move on to the next phase of our journey together."

Clinton makes clear in the email that she is not asking her backers to help re-pay the more than $12 million she put of her own money into the contest. "I had to loan money to my campaign at critical moments," writes Clinton. "I'm not asking for anyone's help to pay that back. That was my investment and my commitment because I believe so deeply in our cause."

Clinton's email comes less than 24 hours after it was revealed that Obama made clear to his major financial backers that he'd like them to "do what they could do" to make his one-time rival's debt disappear.

Obama had begun to draw some flack from party insiders for not encouraging his donors to give to Clinton sooner; he had already sent out fundraising emails on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee prior to his pitch last night on Clinton's behalf.

Zeroing out Clinton's debt is one of the most literal ways that Clinton and Obama can put the lingering bad memories of their protracted primary fight behind them. If Clinton has no primary debt hanging over her head, she is freed -- from a logistical standpoint -- to spend her time in the coming months campaigning for Obama as well as other Democratic downballot candidates.

Healing the rift between Clinton and Obama is a complicated matter that must be handled on both the practical and symbolic levels.

The symbolic march to unity continued this morning when Clinton addressed House Democrats on her second day back on Capitol Hill following her departure from the race earlier this month.

"This was a very difficult campaign, let's be honest," Clinton told her House colleagues, according to someone in the room. "It caused some heartburn...but we are a family; we are the Democratic Party and we are on the same team. So let's go out and win in November."

Words like that -- plus an influx of donations from prominent Obama backers to Clinton's debt retirement efforts -- are the stones on which the path to real reconciliation is built.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 25, 2008; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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