By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
UNITY, N.H. -- The big moment came at 1:20 p.m. -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton taking the stage together, waving to the cheering throngs, his arm around her shoulder, even color coordinated -- she in a powder blue pantsuit and he wearing a tie of the same hue over a white dress shirt.
"Unity is not only a beautiful place as we can see, it's a wonderful feeling, isn't it?" Clinton, speaking first, told thousands of people gathered outside Unity Elementary School -- for this day at least the center of the political universe as the setting for the first joint rally of the former Democratic rivals. "And I know what we start here in this field in Unity, we'll end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president."
"We have gone toe to toe in this hard fought primary," she said. "But on this day and every day going forward, we stand shoulder to shoulder....Our hearts are set on the same destination for America."
Clinton declared that the 18 million voters she received and the 18 million Obama drew will form an "unstoppable force for change we can all believe in," using Obama's campaign slogan.
While John McCain and Republicans might wish for a divided Democratic party, "we are one party, we are one America," she said.
When some in the crowd started chanting, "Obama, Obama, Obama!" others started chanting "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!"
Clinton then went on to state Obama's case that McCain would be more of the same on the economy, Iraq, and other priorities -- and told her supporters who might be considering staying home or voting for McCain in November: "I strongly urge you to reconsider. I urge you to remember who we're standing for in this election."
Obama, who sat on a high chair smiling and applauding, arms crossed as Clinton spoke, began by effusively praising her as good, tough, passionate, committed, and a "historic candidate."
"I could not be happier or prouder or more moved to be sharing this stage as allies," he said, as Clinton stood just off his right shoulder.
"I've admired her as a leader. I've learned from her as a candidate," he said. When someone in the crowd shouted, "She rocks," Obama repeated it.
He then said that he needs Clinton and former president Bill Clinton to win and to bring unity to the country.
Obama directly addressed the sexism that many of Clinton's supporters have complained about. Clinton, she said, brushed off the unfair attacks and "dealt with them with her usual grace and aplomb."
While the campaign has shown how far the country still has to go, he said, Clinton's success has also shown how far the nation has come and provided a historic example for his daughters and daughters everywhere:
"They can take for granted that they can do anything the boys can do. And do it better. And do it in heels."
Obama led the way as they both went through the crowd, shaking hands and signing autographs as people snapped cellphone photos, to the raised platform, surrounded by bleachers with a huge "Unite for Change" banner, an American flag, and "Unity" sign as the backdrop.
Sue and Lloyd Mills, who live in Unity and are in their mid 50s, said the town has been in high gear preparing since Obama's campaign announced the rally would be in the tiny town of 1,700 where Clinton and Obama received the exact same number of votes -- 107 -- in the January primary.
“5,000 people -- that’s tripling our population in a matter of hours,” said Lloyd Mills.
Many of those gathered said they were excited about this attempt to get the party united behind Obama.
“I think it's wonderful,” said Jennie Pollard, 59, a teacher from Windsor, Vt., who said she voted for Clinton but now is fully behind Obama. “We need to get together to support the Democratic Party.”
But not everyone feels that way.
Laura Smith, 55, who lives in Connecticut and New Hampshire, is carrying a sign that declares, “The Democratic Party is a house divided” and another that says “Puma: Party Unity My A**.”
She said she volunteered for Clinton during the primaries, plans to travel to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, and plans to vote for Republican John McCain in protest.
“I think it's important for everyone to understand that everybody is not falling in line for Obama," said Smith, who said she believes that Obama is far too inexperienced to be president. "There are thousands of us out there, we communicate on the Internet, we don’t buy his story.”
The Associated Press reports that after greeting each other with a handshake and a kiss on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport, the former foes settled into the second row of Obama's campaign plane for the trip to New Hampshire, Obama at the window and Clinton on the aisle. They smiled and gestured to one another as they boarded the plane and spent the entire flight, just over an hour, talking animatedly.
McCain, meanwhile, is still seeking Clinton's voters. "I do think we are able to attract some of Senator Clinton's supporters," he told reporters today in Ohio.
His campaign organized a conference call with former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift to discuss the Democrats' unity event.
UPDATE: "One of the reasons that I was compelled to support John McCain in the very difficult times was my admiration for his -- not only willingness, but his demonstrated willingness to reach across the aisle to address some of the most vexing issues facing our country," Swift said.
"I guess in looking at the event in appropriately named Unity today, it made me wish that Senator Obama had actually worked as hard to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, D.C., during his short time there, as he is working hard apparently to bridge the divide in his own party with Hillary Clinton voters."
Blair Latoff, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, added: “The one consistency Barack Obama has going today is that he’s once again surrounded himself with Democrats. The problem he faces is that Democrats, like Republicans and independents, prefer a candidate who will work with the other party for the betterment of the country even when it isn’t popular.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.