Clinton plans exit as Obama gathers more support

(CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton thanked supporters in an e-mail Thursday and pledged to help Sen. Barack Obama capture the White House after eight years of Republican control.

Clinton plans to thank supporters in person at a Washington D.C. event Saturday, her campaign said, but she got a head start in an e-mail the campaign sent early Thursday.

"I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise," the message said.

"This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans."

Clinton plans to suspend her campaign within days, her campaign said. By suspending instead of dropping out altogether, Clinton would technically remain a candidate, entitled to keep statewide pledged delegates and district-level delegates.

Yet Democrats nationwide have coalesced around Obama since he received enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee on Tuesday evening.

On Thursday and Friday, top Democrats from Clinton's home state of New York plan to endorse the Illinois senator, congressional staffers and Obama campaign insiders told CNN.

The New York Democratic Congressional delegation plans to embrace Obama's candidacy Thursday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the sources said.

And on Friday, Democratic leaders in New York, including Gov. David A. Patterson, state legislators and city council members, plan to endorse Obama at a 1 p.m. news conference at New York's City Hall, the sources said.

Obama earned enough delegates Tuesday to clinch the nomination, but Clinton did not concede defeat that night. Instead, she asked supporters to visit her Web site and give her advice on how to proceed.

Since then, Clinton supporters have stepped up efforts to get her the vice-presidential slot.

Billionaire Bob Johnson -- founder of Black Entertainment Television -- told CNN he plans to ask the Congressional Black Caucus to urge Obama to offer Clinton the vice-presidential slot. And Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) said putting Clinton on the ticket would help unify the party.

"A lot of her supporters are still broken-hearted, but if we see that her candidacy is treated with respect and that we're going to have one ticket -- the Obama/Clinton ticket -- I think that would bring us together like no other political incentive," he said.

Both campaigns deny that discussions on the subject have begun.

Clinton and Obama spoke by phone about two hours after Obama claimed victory in the nominating fight. They spoke again on Wednesday, at the annual conference of AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

In her remarks to the group, Clinton heaped effusive praise on Obama.

"Let me be very clear," said Clinton. "I know that Sen. Obama will be a good friend to Israel. I know that Sen. Obama shares my view that the next president must be ready to say to the world America's position is unchanging, our resolve unyielding, our stance, nonnegotiable."

Obama has named Caroline Kennedy and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to a vice-presidential selection team led by Former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson.

Clinton looked toward the general election in the e-mail her campaign sent Thursday.

"I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama," the message said. "The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

She acknowledged receiving support throughout her campaign, including "hundreds of thousands of messages" in the last few days.

"I can never possibly express my gratitude," the message said, "so let me say simply, 'Thank you.'"

Posted by KO

Source: CNN