Hillary Clinton delivered an unequivocal endorsement of Barack Obama in her prime time speech at the Democratic convention in Denver tonight and called on her supporters to rally behind him.
"I am honoured to be here tonight. A proud mother. A proud Democrat. A proud American. And a proud supporter of Barack Obama," she said, opening her speech. Demonstrating the party discipline she has shown throughout her political career, she repeated the call for party unity at regular intervals throughout the 25-minute speech. "We are on the same team and none of us can sit on the sidelines," she said. Die-hard Clintonites have taken comfort in her earlier pronouncements, saying they were ambiguous. But there was no ambiguity in her speech last night. Each of her calls for unity was greeted with loud cheers, suggesting the party was beginning the process of coming together. The resistance threatened by her most fervent supporters appears to be petering out. A formal roll call of her support is likely to be held at the convention today but it will only be symbolic. The dominance by the Clintons of the Democratic party for most of the last two decades appears to be just about over. But if Obama was to lose in November, Clinton could hope to try again in 2012. The convention acknowledged her tenacity in the fight with Obama for the Democratic nomination - the first woman to come so close - by giving her a three-minute standing ovation. The hall turned into a sea of white and blue Hillary placards. She was introduced by her daughter Chelsea who described her as her hero and husband Bill watched from the sidelines She paid tribute to those who had backed her campaign. "To my supporters, my champions - my sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits - from the bottom of my heart: thank you. You never gave in. You never gave up. And together we made history." In a speech free of rancour or resentment, she loyally made the case for Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden. "I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight long years. Those are the reasons I ran for president. Those are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should too," she said. She indulged in just one jibe at Obama, over healthcare, in which she favours the speedy introduction of universal care while he prefers a phased approach. "I can't wait to watch Barack Obama sign a healthcare plan into law that covers every single American," she said. Earlier in the day, she formally released her 1,896 supporters from pledges to vote for her at the convention, a symbolic move that frees them to vote for Obama in a show of party unity. The speech by the woman who has gone further than any other in US politics coincided with the 88th anniversary of the adoption of the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote, In contrast with the first day of the convention, which many delegates criticised for failing to land punches on the Republicans, Clinton rounded on both president George Bush and the Republican candidate, John McCain. "John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound. John McCain doesn't think that 47m people without health insurance is a crisis. John McCain wants to privatise social security. And in 2008, he still thinks it is okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work," she said. It was appropriate that Bush and McCain should appear together at the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St Paul next week "because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart". Bill Clinton could prove to be less disciplined tomorrow evening. The Obama campaign team wanted to edit his speech to ensure he stuck to the theme of the day, national security. But Clinton, who feels Obama has failed to pay homage to the economic successes during his presidency, is intent on speaking about not only national security but the economy and his administration's achievements. In spite of her loyal speech, there is frustration in the Obama camp that she dominated one of only four precious convention days. Bill Clinton's speech and the prospect of a symbolic roll call of her supporters tomorrow will again overshadow Obama's message.