WASHINGTON — Barack Obama and Bill Clinton ended their mutual silent treatment Monday, with the Democratic presidential candidate reaching out and asking his former Democratic nemesis to help him win the White House.
In their first conversation since the end of the heated primary, former President Clinton agreed to campaign for the candidate he portrayed as inexperienced for a presidential run. Obama had said Bill Clinton's harsh criticisms led him to wonder which Clinton he was running against sometimes.
The 20-minute conversation was the latest step in bringing together the two warring camps. While Hillary Rodham Clinton has been publicly behind Obama, hard feelings remained between the former Democratic president and the candidate hoping to become the next one.
They hadn't spoken until Obama called Monday after landing in Missouri for a campaign stop. Both sides later issued statements about the conversation, an important public display of how Obama needs to have both Clintons on board moving into the general election.
Bill Clinton is still popular with voters even if his stock went down, especially among blacks, after his angry outbursts against Obama during the primary. But Obama could use the former president to help win over voters, especially the working-class whites who fondly remember better economic times under the Clinton administration and who overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton during the primaries.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama asked Clinton to campaign with him and on his own.
Obama "has always believed that Bill Clinton is one of this nation's great leaders and most brilliant minds, and looks forward to seeing him on the campaign trail and receiving his counsel in the months to come," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.
Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said the former president renewed his offer _ expressed in a one-sentence statement last week _ to do whatever he can to ensure Obama wins the presidency.
"President Clinton continues to be impressed by Senator Obama and the campaign he has run, and looks forward to campaigning for and with him in the months to come," McKenna said. "The president believes that Senator Obama has been a great inspiration for millions of people around the country and he knows that he will bring the change America needs as our next president."
Bill Clinton was in Europe last week and did not attend last Friday's rally with his wife and Obama in the symbolic town of Unity, N.H. Obama said it was appropriate that he appear alone with his former rival since they waged the hard-fought race.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Loven in Independence, Mo., contributed to this report.
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