Bill Clinton predicts Obama will win 'handily'

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Barack Obama and former President Clinton talked for two hours on Thursday, their first meeting in a White House race that had once bitterly divided them. Clinton predicted that Obama will win the presidency "pretty handily."

Their conversation started with small talk about the former president's commute to his Harlem office and ended after a lunch of sandwiches, flatbread pizza and salad from Cosi.

"They discussed the campaign briefly, but mostly talked about how the world has changed since September 11, 2001," their spokesmen said in a joint statement. The meeting came on the seventh anniversary of the attacks and shortly before Obama was to visit Ground Zero with Republican presidential rival John McCain.

Reporters were allowed in at the beginning of the meeting in Clinton's 14th floor office, but the former president kept his answers short when he was asked about his involvement with Obama's campaign this fall. He noted an already announced trip Sept. 29 to Florida.

Obama said, "We're putting him to work."

Asked if he would be campaigning beyond that, Clinton said, "I've agreed to do a substantial number of things, whatever I'm asked to do."

Before reporters were ushered out, Clinton was asked where he sees the race between Obama and McCain.

"I predict that Senator Obama will win and win pretty handily," he said.

Obama interjected: "You can take it from the president of the United States. He knows a little something about politics."

Obama and Bill Clinton appeared less friendly toward each other at times during Obama's Democratic primary battle with Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. After Obama clinched the party's nomination, both Clintons gave strong speeches in Obama's favor during the party convention in Denver.

Obama's visit to Clinton's Harlem office, which overlooks Central Park, sparked excitement in the neighborhood, with people crowding around police barricades that shut off the block. The two men briefly appeared in front of the building, where a large group had been waiting for hours in hopes of a glimpse.

People screamed loudly and snapped cell phone pictures when the two emerged. Obama ducked back in the building with Clinton after a few waves but without shaking hands.

Their spokesmen said the two men were complimentary of each other's work, with Obama praising the Clinton Foundation, and Clinton applauding the candidate's campaign.

"They also spoke about what the next president can do to help make the economy work for all Americans, as it did under President Clinton, and ensure safety and prosperity far beyond the coming the election," their joint statement said.