DENVER — Hillary Rodham Clinton summoned the millions of voters who supported her in the primaries to send Barack Obama to the White House Tuesday night, and drew thunderous applause at the Democratic National Convention when she declared her one-time rival is "my candidate and he must be our president."
"We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare," said the former first lady, writing the final chapter in a quest for the White House every bit as pioneering as Obama's own.
The packed convention floor became a sea of white "Hillary" signs as the New York senator _ Obama's fiercest rival across 56 primaries and caucuses _ strode to the podium for her prime-time speech. The signs were soon replaced others that read simply, "Unity."
While her remarks included a full-throated endorsement of Obama, Clinton did not say whether she would have her name placed in nomination or seek a formal roll call of the states when the party's top prize is awarded by delegates on Wednesday night.
Clinton had been the prohibitive favorite for the nomination she launched her campaign last year, seeking to become the first female president. But she fell behind Obama after the leadoff Iowa caucuses in January, and he now is poised to become the first black nominee of a major party.
Obama turned the featured speaking slot of the convention's second night over to Clinton, hoping she could nudge her disenchanted supporters toward his candidacy.
He called her after her speech to express his appreciation, aides said.
She followed others to the podium who ripped into Republican McCain as indifferent to the working class and cozy with big oil.
'If he's the answer, then the question must be ridiculous," New York Gov. David Paterson said of the GOP presidential candidate.
Said Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, "It's time to bring our jobs back and bring our troops home."
"Call the roll!" urged Ted Sorensen, a party elder eager to propel Obama toward the White House.
Obama's formal nomination was set for Wednesday night. First came Clinton,
The convention hall was packed for her appearance, so much so that officials sealed the entrances.
Calling herself a "proud supporter of Obama, Clinton dismissed Republican John McCain with a few choice words.
"No way. No how. No McCain," she said as the hall erupted in cheers.
"We don't need four more years ... of the last eight years," she added.
Like other failed candidates at conventions past, Clinton recalled her own quest for the White House.
"You taught me so much, you made me laugh and ... you even made me cry," she said to supporters in the Pepsi Center and millions more watching on nationwide television.
"You allowed me to become part of your lives, and you became part of mine."
"I want you to ask yourselves, 'Were you in this campaign just for me?'" she asked.
Despite lingering unhappiness among some delegates nursing grievances over Clinton's loss, party chairman Howard Dean declared the convention determined to make Obama the nation's 44th president. "There is not a unity problem. If anyone doubts that, wait till you see Hillary Clinton's speech," he said.
In the convention keynote address, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said Obama will "appeal to us not as Republicans or Democrats, but first and foremost as Americans." He added, "We need leaders who see our common ground as sacred ground."
In contrast to many of speeches delivered earlier in the day, out of prime time, Warner's remarks were more a sketch of the "post-partisan" possibilities that Obama often speaks of, rather than criticism of McCain and President Bush.
"I know we're at the Democratic National Convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn't matter if it has an 'R' or 'D' next to it," he said.
As keynoter, Warner's task was the same one that Obama _ then an Illinois state lawmaker running for the U.S. Senate _ used four years ago to launch his astonishing ascent in national politics.
Obama, 47 and in his first Senate term, campaigned in Missouri as he slowly made his way toward the convention city. Speaking to airline workers in a giant hangar, he accused the Bush administration of failing to enforce health and safety laws and said McCain "doesn't get it" when it comes to the concerns of blue collar workers.
There was more of the same _ much more _ as a parade of speakers criticized McCain at the convention several hundred miles away.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the Republican has voted against "real sex education, voted against affordable family planning. And if elected, John McCain has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade," she said, referring to the landmark 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland focused on economic issues. "While families are losing sleep tonight trying to figure out some way to make their paycheck stretch through one more day, John McCain is sleeping better than ever," he said, recalling that McCain had recently said Americans were better off because of President Bush's policies.
And Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said oil companies were "placing their bets on John McCain, bankrolling his campaign and gambling with our future."
"John McCain offers four more years of the same Bush-Cheney policies that have failed us," summed up Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Sorensen was a link to some of the party's glory years, John F. Kennedy's closest aide. As was the case with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's emotional appearance on the convention's opening night Monday, Sorensen's presence on the podium was designed to strengthen the image of Obama as Kennedy's worthy heir.
Obama delivers his acceptance speech Thursday night at a football stadium. An estimated 75,000 tickets have been distributed for the event, meant to stir additional comparisons with Kennedy's appearance at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.
The Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., next week to nominate McCain and his still-unnamed running mate. That will set the stage for a final sprint to Election Day in a race that is remarkably close.
Dean, the party chairman, said the Democrats' imperatives were "to make sure people know who Barack Obama is, who Joe Biden is."
Biden, a Delaware senator, is Obama's vice presidential pick, already making the rounds of the convention city.
Whatever tone the Democrats took, there was no mistaking McCain's intentions.
For the second time in three days, his campaign sought to use Clinton to wound Obama. This time it was a television commercial that made use of a memorable ad she ran in the primaries.
It shows sleeping children and a 3 a.m. phone call into the White House portending a crisis. In the new ad Clinton is shown saying: "I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."
A narrator adds: "Hillary's right. John McCain for president."