Hillary Clinton ended her historic presidential bid and endorsed Barack Obama on Saturday, urging her supporters to unite behind Obama and help recapture the White House for Democrats in November.
In the first step toward healing the wounds of a sometimes bitter five-month Democratic nominating battle, Clinton told cheering supporters at a final campaign rally that she and Obama shared the same values and goals.
<b1>"Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run," Clinton told a crowd of about 2,000 at the National Building Museum in Washington.
"I endorse him and I throw my full support behind him," she said, with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her daughter, Chelsea, standing to the side of the stage.
"We will make history together," she said.
Obama will be crowned the Democratic nominee at the party's August nominating convention and will face Republican Sen John McCain in November's election to choose a successor to President George W Bush.
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, was once the heavy favorite to become the first female US president. She had resisted calls to pull out of the race for months as the split between their supporters grew wider.
But she said it was time to put aside their differences and concentrate on winning in November.
"This has been a tough fight but the Democratic Party is a family and now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together," she said.
Clinton's decision to suspend her campaign means she retains some control of her delegates and can still work to repay more than $20 million in campaign debt, including more than $11 million she loaned the campaign from her own pocket.
Clinton gets spotlight
Obama did not appear at the rally, giving Clinton the spotlight for the day. Clinton won more than 17 million votes during the Democratic nominating battle, and Obama has tried to build bridges to her camp ahead of the November campaign.
Clinton was generous in her praise for the Illinois senator who will be the first black presidential nominee of a major US political party.
"I've had a front row seat to his candidacy and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit," Clinton said.
"When I started this race, I intended to win back the White House and make sure we have a president who puts our country back on the path to peace, prosperity and progress," she said.
"And that's exactly what we are going to do by ensuring that Barack Obama walks through the doors of the Oval Office on January 20, 2009."
She made no mention of speculation she will be Obama's running mate. She has said she is open to the idea, a prospect that excites many supporters but is viewed with skepticism in Obama's camp.
Some of her supporters have tried to pressure Obama into picking her, but her campaign issued a statement on Thursday saying she is not seeking the vice presidential slot.
Obama has named a three-member team to head his vice presidential search and has sworn off further discussion of the choice.
Clinton entered the race in January 2007 as the clear front-runner and was viewed as the almost certain winner for most of the year, but stumbled to a third-place finish behind Obama in the first contest in January in Iowa.
She bounced back five days later to win in New Hampshire, but never recovered from Obama's string of 10 consecutive victories in February.