From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Hillary Clinton brought thousands of North Carolina Democrats to their feet last night by pledging her full support for Barack Obama, should he win the nomination.
Speaking at the state party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Clinton immediately set the tone.
"We all know that what unites us as Democrats is so much greater than
the differences, and the stakes are too high for us not to pull
together as one team," she said. "I will tell you this: If Sen. Obama
is the nominee, you better believe I'll work my heart out for him."
Following a 30-second standing ovation that included "Obama" chants,
Clinton then said she expected the same. "If I'm the nominee, I know
Sen. Obama will do the very same for me, because it will be a united
Democratic Party that goes on to victory in November," she said.
That's not to say Clinton did not draw contrasts with her rival. She
said that voters have "had enough of the talk and the rhetoric," and
promised "real and immediate solutions to the problems facing
hard-working Americans." She also repeated her call for a gas tax
"If the choice is between making you pay the gas tax this summer and
making the big oil companies pay out of their record profits, to me
that choice is clear," she said.
But she saved her strongest rhetoric for John McCain, saying, "he's offering four more years of the same."
"I respect Sen. McCain and his service to our nation, but he has the wrong ideas about America," he said. "He looks at the hole that George Bush has dug us into and says, give me a bigger shovel."
Clinton's remarks last night were also notable for her praise for the Tar Heel State's former senator.
"What a great fighter North Carolina and working Americans everywhere have in John Edwards," she said. "John ran with compassion and conviction, and his courageous fight to end poverty is a fight I will see to the finish."
She promised to appoint a "Cabinet-level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America." And she praised Elizabeth Edwards as a "a true champion for universal health care" and "for standing up against John McCain's inadequate and radical health-care plan."
Clinton concluded by praising to "stand strong" for working families as president, taking on special interests.
"It wont be easy, but there's one thing you know about me, I am no shrinking violet," she said.
But there was one issue that Clinton would not confront.
"I've been all across this state listening, talking to you, and, yes, eating a little barbecue from time to time," she said. "The only issue I won't take a position on in this race is whether I prefer East or West. Some issues are just too controversial for me."
NOTE: Talk about game-changers, actress Liz Taylor endorsed Clinton…again. Because of her undoubted sway among Hoosiers and those in the Research Triangle, Taylor felt it was her duty to release the following statement -- passed around by the Clinton campaign, by the way:
"It would be magnificent for our country if Senator Clinton won the votes, hearts and minds of the people in Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday. She's a brilliant teacher and powerful leader. We all know what she's about. We know what she isn't. Senator Clinton is not a flibbertijibbet. She's strong. It's also important for great leaders to have a sense of humor about themselves. The future of our great country rests in the hands of the next president. Who sits in the Oval Office will be determined greatly by the citizens of Indiana and North Carolina. In my heart, I know they will choose wisely and they will choose well."
For those wondering, Flibbertijibbet (n.) -- also spelled flibbertigibbet: "a silly, flighty person." Used in a sentence: "Liz Taylor IS a flibbertigibbet."
Earlier, Clinton got the support of Barbara Streisand. No word yet on where Liza Minelli's support lies. Now that would be a game-changer. ...
Also... actress Julia Louis Dreyfus is backing Obama; she's upset with a women's advocacy group linked to anti-Obama robo-calls in North Carolina. Dreyfus had done a PSA for the group.