WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will help pay off Hillary Rodham Clinton's more than $20-million debt, personally writing a check in a gesture meant to win over her top financial backers.
Obama met with more than 200 of Clinton's biggest fundraisers at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, the first step in a two-day push to bring her supporters onboard his general election campaign. Obama received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 200 when he said he would enlist his supporters to help pay off her debt. In a symbolic gesture, he delivered a personal check for $4,600, for himself and his wife, Michelle. The maximum individual donation allowed by law is $2,300. Clinton's debt includes $12-million of her own money. She has said she is not asking for help paying that back.
Clinton and Obama plan to appear together for the first time since the end of the primary today in Unity, N.H.
Republican presidential nominee John McCain met privately Thursday in Ohio with several influential social conservatives who had been critical of him — and told them he was open to learning more about their opposition to embryonic stem-cell research despite his past disagreements with them over that issue. He also said he would talk more openly about his opposition to gay marriage — a pledge he carried through later in the day by endorsing a ballot measure in California to ban gay marriage.
"It was obvious there were a lot of changed hearts in the room," said Phil Burress, who led Ohio's anti-gay marriage ballot measure in 2004.
McCain is scheduled to fly Sunday to Asheville, N.C., to meet privately with evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the iconic Christian figure Billy Graham.