From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In her first speech since conceding the Democratic nomination to Obama, Hillary Clinton urged some of her strongest supporters -- nurses -- to put their energy behind the Democratic nominee.
"I have served with Sen. Obama now for nearly four years in the Senate," she told delegates of the American Nurses Association this morning. "I campaigned with him for more than 16 months across our country. I debated with in more debates than I can remember. And I have seen his passion and determination and his grit and his grace."
She said the stakes were too high not to unite, noting as she did in her concession speech that Democrats have won the White House only three times in the last 40 years.
"Think of how much progress we could have made over the last 40 years with different kinds of leadership, leadership that really trusted and believed in the American people and the American dream," she said. "On the environment, on energy, on civil rights and human rights, on health care, on so much that mattered to us. That's why it is critical that this election summon up the very best that America has to offer."
She targeted McCain specifically on health care, saying it was "inexplicable" that he opposed expanding SCHIP, and "unbelievable" that his health care plan would, she said, "cause millions of hard working Americans to lose the coverage they already have."
"So whatever issue you care about, whatever your passion might be, we have to join together and present a united front on behalf of our nations future, and our children and grandchildren and generations to come," she said.
She invited the nurses, and overwhelmingly female audience, to join her on the campaign trail, noting she will start tomorrow.
"We are going to a place very appropriately called Unity, New Hampshire," she said. "It's not only well named but in the New Hampshire primary both of us received exactly 107 votes. So it pretty much mirrored the rest of the campaign where it was right down the middle."
Clinton seemed relaxed, rested, and more self-deprecating than she was on the campaign trail. At one point she said she'd been involved in politics for, "I hate to confess, 40 years. Somebody should please call out, 'Oh I don't believe it.' But it's true!"
And as she spoke about her benchmark issue, health care, she spoke of a number of encounters she had across the country, from Iowa to South Dakota, with people who have struggled to receive adequate care. And each time she mentioned a state she traveled through, cheers would erupt from the various delegations in the room.
"I've been everywhere," she said after one interruption from the West Virginia corner. "And had the best time doing it."