Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will have their first private meeting of the campaign season on Thursday at the former president's Harlem office, campaign aides said, signaling another step toward party unity as the race for the White House intensifies.
Clinton, who extended the invitation, gave a rousing speech in Denver at the Democratic National Committee convention, urging voters to get behind Obama. The speech came after a bruising primary race between Obama and Clinton's wife, Hillary, that left a rift in the party.
This marks the first time they will appear together since they took the stage at a memorial service for an Ohio congresswoman on Aug. 30. One or two aides also will attend, the campaign said.
"President Clinton is a major contributing factor and his support will be necessary to win in November, and there is strong work to be done to correcting any rifts," said Nassau County Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), a former Clinton delegate who now backs Obama. "Whenever two sides are talking it's good. We want to make sure we have all cylinders rolling."
Obama begins a two-day swing through New York tomorrow. Along with his Republican rival, John McCain, he will mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 at a Ground Zero event on Thursday. Details about his schedule are still in the works, aides said.
Obama also will appear on the David Letterman show tonight.
Both candidates are scheduled to appear in back-to-back interviews at the bipartisan Service Nation Summit at Columbia University Thursday evening. Gov. David A. Paterson will welcome the audience before the start of the event, which begins at 8 p.m. and will air on CNN.
Polls show the race is a dead heat, with McCain seeing a post-Palin and post-convention bounce, and in some polls pulling ahead of Obama for the first time.