Barack Obama, trying to quickly unify his fractured party, made a series of symbolic but significant changes on Thursday aimed at showing him as an agent of change and in control of the Democratic machinery.

Less than 36 hours after claiming his party's presidential nomination, the Illinois senator said the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will stop accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists and political action committees, just as Obama's campaign has done.

Republicans argued that Obama's gesture was little more than symbolism. Traditionally, PAC and lobbyist money constitutes a small percentage of how much political parties raise.

Obama also said he is keeping Howard Dean at the helm of the DNC, while bringing in one of his top strategists, Paul Tewes, to oversee changes in the party's operations.

By keeping Dean, Obama ended up taking sides in a long-running dispute between Washington-based Democratic Party leaders and state party officials. Although Obama campaign officials have expressed concern in the past that the party did not have enough money, Obama shares Dean's goal of building the party from the ground up, even in states where Republicans dominate.

Clinton and Obama meet in private

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama met privately Thursday night to talk about uniting the Democratic Party, an Obama spokesman said. "It's the end of the primary process. They wanted to talk about bringing these campaigns together in unity," Robert Gibbs said.

He would not say where they met, except to say it was not at Clinton's home in Washington, as was widely reported.

Clinton, meanwhile, tried to quiet a campaign by her allies to force her onto the Democratic ticket.

"While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her," her campaign said in a news release. "The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."


Republican John McCain faced tough questions Thursday about why he opposed a measure to restore the Everglades that had broad support from Florida officials, including Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and GOP Sen. Mel Martinez.

McCain said he couldn't support the Everglades measure because it was part of a pork-barrel spending bill last year. But he said he would have supported the measure on its own.

"I am committed to saving the Everglades," McCain insisted to a convention of Florida newspaper editors in Lake Buena Vista.

McCain sided with President Bush, who vetoed the bill that included the Everglades funding. Nonetheless, the measure became law in November when Congress overrode Bush's veto.


Obama kicked off his general election campaign Thursday in Virginia, formerly a reliably Republican state in presidential elections that's changing fast and could be a battleground this fall.

In choosing for his opening Virginia event a high school in Bristol, an Appalachian town beside the Tennessee border, Obama signaled that he'll compete for white working-class voters, who didn't support him during the primary season and threaten to cross party lines to vote for McCain.

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