Team Obama team aiming to hire key Clinton staffers for November contest.

SHARE Team Obama team aiming to hire key Clinton staffers for November contest.

WASHINGTON — Despite the tensions between the Obama and Clinton campaigns, the Obama team, presuming Sen. Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, wants to hire Clinton staffers for the general election race, as Sen. Hillary Clinton hopes a big Kentucky win Tuesday keeps her in play a little while longer.

Deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand told me he did want not to be presumptuous, but when the time comes, “I think that there certainly will be a hand extended to them from us.” Obama is poised to sweep Oregon on Tuesday and claim a majority of the pledged delegates Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa, a November battleground state and the place where he claimed his first win — with his Jan. 3 victory in the Iowa caucus.

“Many of us, our counterparts, associates, have fought many battles seated next to each other,” Hildebrand said. “And we’re friends … you sort of know who some of the best people are, and you are going to want to start trying to get them on your team because this is about winning the presidency, not about being small.

“… I don’t know everybody on their payroll by any stretch of the imagination, but I know a bunch of people that would be my first round of calls that I would want to invite into our camp because we need really good people,” he said.

Obama knows that if he is to beat presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, he will need Clinton’s backers — not just some of her staffers. Clinton is staying in because although Obama is beating her, the race has been fairly close, and Obama has not been the only one bringing in new people to this election.

At a Portland fund-raiser Saturday night, Obama talked about need for a unified Democratic party in November, saying, “That means all of you have to be nice to Clinton supporters.”

Clinton supporters are looking for respect — not making nice. That’s why the Obama endorsement last week by the abortion rights group NARAL PAC frosted Clinton backers. They saw it as disrespectful not to wait, since for all practical matters, Clinton’s candidacy winds down in a few weeks.

When that happens, there are several things Obama can do. Obama and Clinton should make a joint appearance at one of Obama’s mega-rallies. Then they should do a barnstorming tour together of the states Clinton won that Obama will need in the fall. It would earn goodwill for Obama to use his e-mail list to help Clinton retire her debt.

And one last item — don’t pick a female running mate if it is not Clinton.

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