John McCain's courtship of Sen. Hillary Clinton disaffected supporters accelerated on Tuesday night, as the Arizona Republican continued his charm offensive to the supporters of the likely vanquished Democratic nominee.
Speaking this evening in Louisiana, McCain praised Clinton for both the campaign she's run and her personal and political character.
"Senator Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage," he said. "The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received. As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach. I am proud to call her my friend."
The remark came just after McCain commended "both Senators Obama and Clinton for the long, hard race they have run." Ironically, the rest of his speech was spent ripping Obama on a host of issues while cheering on the New York Democrat.
The speech -- deemed a launching point for the general election campaign -- is an extension of what has become a concerted effort on the part of McCain and his aides to reap the benefits of the currently fractured Democratic Party. Earlier on Tuesday, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, stressed that Clinton backers would find a comfortable home supporting the Republican nominee.
"There's going to be a competition for many of Hillary Clinton's former supporters," said the Republican Governor. "I think many of those voters are going to consider supporting McCain. They see in him many of the same characteristics they saw in Hillary Clinton."
On Monday, meanwhile, the Senator and aides offered sympathy to Clinton for the unfair treatment that he said she has received throughout the primary. McCain himself praised the New York Democrat for inspiring "generations of American women to believe that they can reach the highest office in this nation."
Update: Not one to cede political turf, Barack Obama is also set to shower Clinton with some flattering language and compliments of his own tonight. From excerpts of his speech:
Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.
We've certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning -- even in the face of tough odds -- is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency -- an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.