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Minnesota Democrats say they are united

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ST. PAUL - Hillary Clinton tried to replace a question mark about her support of Barack Obama Tuesday night with an exclamation point.

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"Barack Obama is my candidate," Clinton told a raucous Democratic National Convention crowd. "And he must be our president."

The New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had been harsh on Obama during the presidential primary election and caucus season. There had been concern among some Democrats that the party would continue to show divisions. Clinton told delegates to put that fight behind them.

"Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose," she said to loud cheers from delegates holding up "Hillary" signs. "We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines."

With her husband looking down from his seat in the Pepsi Center, the senator said she cannot support Republican candidate John McCain: "No way. No how. No McCain."

Progress will not be easy, she said. "But it will be impossible if we don't fight to put a Democrat in the White House."

Obama as president would revitalize the economy, help working Americans and do well in the global community, she said.

"Democrats did it before, and President Obama and the Democrats will do it again," she proclaimed.

Clinton's effort to drive home her support for Obama, who is to accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night, convinced Minnesota supporters to finally accept her defeat.

"Certainly in the Minnesota delegation, I'm not seeing any holdouts," Colleen Nardone of Grand Rapids said from Denver.

Nardone said she attended a meeting of about 500 Democratic women Tuesday morning where Obama support was "overwhelming."

"Whenever Obama's name was announced, there were cheers," she said.

Mike Sundin, a painter from Esko, was a Clinton delegate but said he supports Obama. He said other Clinton loyalists "will come to realize that the tide has turned and now it's time that we all row in the same direction."

Clinton took the Democratic National Convention spotlight Tuesday night in a much-anticipated speech that ended her campaign to become the first woman major party presidential nominee.

Her speech came on the 88th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. The New York senator shared the stage with other women, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a first-term senator and a speaker the first two nights of the convention.

Some delegates wondered if the Clinton speech and one tonight by her husband were their swan songs. But many predicted Americans would hear a lot from them again.

"They are going to continue to be a very influential force in politics for some time to come," Rep. Kent Eken of Twin Valley said.

Sen. Clinton may run for president again, he said.

The Clintons should remain involved in politics and national policy even if this was not their year, Sundin said. He sees a bright legislative future for Hillary Clinton.

"I hope she continues to serve a valuable part in national politics because she has some experience," he said.

Bill Clinton established himself as a good representative for nonpartisan humanitarian efforts in recent years, Sundin said, adding that he also still is credited with helping create "the economic good fortunes of a lot of people here in the United States" during his eight years in office.

"He'll be respected for that, and he's a crafty politician," Sundin said.

Minnesota delegates predicted the Clintons' speeches will unify Democrats.

"People understand it is time to unite now," Eken said. "Hillary made a good showing, and she did very well in her campaign. But there is a time when we need to unite."

Klobuchar said that after rough spots between the Clintons and Obama during the primary and caucus season the Clintons now support Obama.

The Minnesota senator and another national political leader from Minnesota predict that Bill Clinton will be on his best behavior when he speaks to the convention tonight, despite past anti-Obama comments.

"I don't think that will be a problem," said Nancy Larson, a Democratic National Committee member, although she did say that "Bill probably will go on too long."

"It will be fairly well orchestrated, although Bill could ad lib," Larson added. "I think that they understand the importance to the country. They are going to try to make sure everything they do is to help get a Democrat elected."

Hillary Clinton likely will be nominated Wednesday night, along with Obama, but at some point during the roll call a motion is expected to make the nomination unanimous for the Illinois senator.

About 1,000 Clinton supporters rallied in downtown Denver Tuesday.

ABC News reported that 40 Clinton supporters organized teams to roam the convention floor Tuesday night in an effort to quell any disturbances her backers might start. The SWAT team was a joint idea of Clinton and Obama campaigns.

Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis, a convention superdelegate, said picking Sen. Joe Biden will help win over Clinton supporters.

"I think that with the selection of Joe Biden with the strong foreign policy experience he bring to the ticket, that should help a lot of the Clinton supporters," Kelliher said.

Female Clinton supporters recognize that Obama shares their views on women's issues and that "McCain is not with us on anything," so they are backing the Illinois senator, Nardone said.

Still, she added, many Clinton supporters still are disappointed her presidential run came up short. The most upset Clinton supporters may have skipped the convention, Nardone said.

Clinton's work in this election year is far from over, Nardone said. The New York senator "has an obligation to undo some of the damage that was caused" when Clinton criticized Obama during their primary battle.

"I think she needs to get out and be speaking across the country to her supporters that that was campaign rhetoric and she does recognize that Obama is ready to be commander in chief," Nardone said.

There is a bright political future for Hillary Clinton, Nardone predicted.

"I would like to see her in the Senate in a role with more leadership," the Grand Rapids woman said. "I think she certainly has that ability."

Nardone said she would like to see Clinton run for president again.

Like other Democrats, Nardone said she will be listening closely tonight to former President Clinton's speech to the convention, calling him "a wild card."

"I have to say I never know where he's coming from," she said. "I don't think we will have a clue until we have heard him."

State Capitol Bureau reporters are blogging about the Democratic and Republican national conventions at www.areavoices.com/CapitolChat.

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