RENO - Former President Bill Clinton addressed Nevada Democrats on Saturday, giving what was less a campaign speech for his wife Hillary than a call for unity, no matter who the Democrats nominate for president.
Clinton told delegates to the convention at Reno's Grand Sierra Resort they must pull together once the nominee is selected "to ensure a victory for the ordinary Americans who desperately need a victory."
"Obviously I have a preference in this primary, but here's what I want to tell you: I think it's important as Democrats that we act like Democrats and make it absolutely clear that once everyone has voted and once the votes are all counted that we're going to be united," Clinton said.
He said the nation has gotten a clear look at what the Republicans would do if they took control. The result, Clinton said, is that 1 percent of the nation got 43 percent of the economic benefits.
"Our country used to attack Latin American dictatorships for that kind of policy," he said. "You cannot run a middle class country without shared prosperity."
"We cannot have another eight years where all the prosperity goes to people who are already living in places that are prosperous."
He said party unity behind the nominee is the only way to change the policies which have divided the country, lowered the standard of living for millions and damaged the nation's standing in the eyes of the rest of the world.
"Don't you forget why you came here," he told delegates. "You did not go to all this trouble to have an argument with each other. The only things that matter are who would be the best and who would be the most electable."
Following Clinton's speech, unity quickly became the theme of several speakers, including Rep. Shelley Berkley.
"Like everyone in the room, I have a preference, but if my preference is not the one, I will support the one that is," she said.
"A McCain presidency will be four more years of the same failed policies, four more years of George Bush, and we deserve better than that."
John Soltz, an Iraq veteran who chairs VoteVets, said McCain has voted against veterans' benefits and extending the GI bill to this generation of vets.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called for unity as well, but cautioned delegates not to take victory for granted.
"We're going to win but don't let anyone say it's going to be easy," Reid said. "These people are vicious," he said of the GOP. "They still have Karl Rove in the background."
"This is our election," Reid said. "It's our opportunity to change the direction of our great country."
Reid said after the speech he will do everything possible after June 3 when the primary season ends "to force unpledged super delegates to make a decision."
But Reid said he won't be coming out for either Clinton or Obama because of his position as a key Democratic senator.
"I have to work with both of them," he said making it clear he will back the nominee once that decision is made.
Nevada's state Democratic convention concludes today.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.