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Clinton talks debt with Obama ahead of unity appearance

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Faced with an over $20 million in campaign debt, Hillary Clinton discussed the issue with her former rival Barack Obama ahead of their first campaign appearance together to project Democratic party unity. The two spoke by phone Sunday night, the first time the likely Democratic nominee and his former rival have exchanged words since their private meeting in Washington weeks ago before Clinton conceded defeat and endorsed Obama.

They discussed retiring Clinton’s campaign debt, a conversation Democratic sources cited by ABC called “constructive”.

They also discussed their forthcoming joint fundraising appearance in Washington on Thursday and the first campaign appearance together appropriately in the small town of Unity, New Hampshire, Friday. Though the former first lady won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, the two received 107 votes each in Unity.

Clinton conceded the Democratic race to Obama June 7, just four days after splitting the final two primary contests in South Dakota and Montana.

The pair held a secret meeting in Washington at the home of Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Clinton supporter, prior to Clinton’s concession but had not spoken since that time.

Besides talking to Obama, Clinton Monday turned to her supporters for help in settling the well over $20 million in debt, nearly half of which she loaned herself personally earlier in the year when her campaign was virtually broke and faced life-or-death primary contests.

Under campaign finance laws spearheaded by current presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, Clinton must pay herself back before the party’s convention in late August, or else she is only allowed to receive $250,000.

In an e-mail to supporters, Clinton says she “has something I want to say,” and directs readers to a Web video in which she says “Today, I still need your help.”

The video reads: “By helping us pay off our campaign debt, you’re not just helping Hillary elect a Democratic president and grow our majority in Congress. You’re making it possible for her to work as hard as she can on the issues we care about.”

Clinton also continued to praise onetime rival Barack Obama, saying she knows the Illinois senator shares the same goals as she.

The Obama campaign is reportedly open to helping Clinton raise money to pay off her lingering campaign debt, though no agreement has been announced yet. Under campaign finance laws, the Obama campaign is not allowed to retire Clinton’s debt directly.

Meanwhile, recent public opinion polls show Obama doing much better than McCain on several domestic issues. McCain, on the other hand, does better when it comes to the war on terror.

The latest USA Today-Gallup Poll, for example, shows that Obama is seen as doing a better job than McCain on health care (51 percent to 26 percent), the economy (48 percent to 32 percent), energy (47 percent to 28 percent), and taxes (44 percent to 35 percent).

In this same poll, they basically tie on such matters as the war in Iraq (43 percent to 43 percent), moral values (40 percent to 39 percent) and illegal immigration (34 percent to 36 percent).

But it’s a totally different situation when it comes to the war on terror.

McCain is seen as doing a better job by a 52 percent to 33 percent margin.

All of which suggests that Obama probably would win the election if the biggest issues involve the economy and other domestic matters, analysts said.

But that could change if the war on terror were to emerge as issue number one in the Nov 4 presidential election. Under that circumstance, voters might flock toward McCain.