From NBC's Lee Cowan
PORTLAND -- Bill Richardson described the conversation he had with Hillary Clinton on his decision to endorse Barack Obama as "heated" in an exclusive with NBC Nightly News today.
Both Richardson and Obama shared the spotlight this afternoon at a press conference and later in a sit down interview with NBC's Lee Cowan. (Please insert link to NN spot)
Richardson described the conversation that he had with Clinton last night "tough."
"It was tough to make the call, but I did. It got a little heated. It got a little tense. But it was understood, and I'm proud of my decision."
He stressed that his decision to endorse Obama came a week before, but it was reinforced by the speech Obama gave on race last Tuesday. He cited his own racial background as a Hispanic to underscore why the speech was so significant.
"I'm a Hispanic and I felt that what he said about being a nation of what all of us being together really clenched it," he said.
Calling for unity, Richardson claimed that Democrats would be "wounded" if the drawn out battle between Clinton and Obama continued.
"We have a man who's won many, many primaries. Who's won the most primaries and delegates. Who's unifying the party and the country. Senator Clinton has run a great race, I'm not saying she should withdraw that's her decision. But we can't be wounded heading into Denver and the Democratic convention with negative campaigning. And this campaign has gotten too negative," he said.
"But I do so now just with enormous enthusiasm but enormous respect. I believe that Senator Obama is going to be the nomnee. I'm not asking anybody to get out of the race, but I believe it's time to get behind a nominee who can win," Richardson said.
Obama stressed that Richardson's endorsement provides him with more legitimacy on foreign policy.
"There's no doubt on national security he's got the kind of experience that Senator Clinton and John McCain talk about but has a set of concrete accomplishment that they can't compare with," Obama said.
"I know this man can be Commander-in-chief," Richardson said.
As for any hint that the two seated together might be harbinger of a vice presidential nod for Richardson, Obama called it "a premature ticket."
"I can tell you that there are very few people in American public life that have the breadth and depth of experience that Bill Richardson has," Obama said, adding that he would play a role in the campaign and hinting that he would have a role in a future Obama administration.
Read the full text of the interview here.