As an Obama supporter who deeply distrusts the Clintons, I have to grant that the speech Sen. Clinton gave a few minutes ago really couldn't have been better. Justifiable pride in her campaign's accomplishments gave way to a strong endorsement of her erstwhile rival, and then a broad-based substantive case for why her former backers should give their allegiance and votes and energies to electing Obama in November. I guess if I were to quibble, a line or two about McCain--something to the effect that he's an honorable public servant whose positions nonetheless would be disastrous for the country--might have been welcome. But that's a small point in an outstanding speech--one that showed just how much better a politician Clinton has become over the course of the campaign. I'd always appreciated her mastery of policy detail and grudgingly admired her resilience and indefatigable (albeit at times delusional) approach. But today for the first time it became clear that the "growth as a candidate" the pundits keep talking about is real, and has more positive manifestations than, say, willingness to embrace a brain-dead pseudo-populism on a question like the Gas Tax Holiday.
My guess is that the speech will play well with one group of Clinton supporters--the emotionally invested feminists who will conclude that on the issues, Obama and the Democrats are so far preferable to McCain and the Republicans that they would come home, sooner or later, anyway. But the explicit appeal probably will speed that process and maybe boost their level of investment in Obama's success. I'm not sure, though, that she reached the second group: those "hard-working whites" who just felt more comfortable with Clinton, whether because of brand loyalty, economic arguments, style points, or bigotry. Meanwhile, I read on TPM that the McCain campaign will make a play for Clinton voters based on those same atmospheric/cultural arguments. It should be interesting to see whether economic self-interest (the old core Democratic argument to the voters in play, if you believe as most do that feminist-motivated Clinton supporters probably will come home to the Dem) trumps that Scary Black Guy/Thinks-He's-Better-Than-You ("Hyde Park academic") factor. Also if Obama tries to turn the tables and point out that McCain isn't exactly Mr. Blue-Collar by birth, marriage, or lifestyle.
Ironically it's hard to imagine a better potential surrogate for Obama pushing back against that Republican appeal than Bill Clinton. But I don't know if Obama would ask, and I don't know if the former president would accept, that assignment.