To Lead a Major Party Ticket
Obama Claims Nomination; First Black Candidate
Senator Barack Obama with his wife, Michelle, in St. Paul.
by JEFF ZELENY
Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday evening, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.
A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as the results from the final primaries, in Montana and South Dakota, pushed Mr. Obama over the threshold of winning the 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s convention in August. The victory for Mr. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, broke racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just four years ago served in the Illinois Senate.
“Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a rally in St. Paul. “Because of you, tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.”
In a speech to supporters in New York City, Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to Mr. Obama, but she did not leave the race. In a speech more defiant than conciliatory, she again presented her case that she was the stronger candidate and argued that she had won the popular vote, a notion disputed by the Obama campaign.
“I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters . But she paid homage to Mr. Obama’s accomplishments, saying, “It has been an honor to contest the primaries with him, just as it is an honor to call him my friend.”
Mr. Obama’s victory moved the presidential campaign to a new phase as he tangled with Senator John McCain of Arizona in televised addresses Tuesday night over Mr. Obama’s assertion that Mr. McCain would carry on President Bush’s policies. Mr. McCain vigorously rebuffed that criticism in a speech in Kenner, La., in which he distanced himself from the departing president while contrasting his own breadth of experience with Mr. Obama’s record.
“The American people didn’t get to know me yesterday, as they are just getting to know Senator Obama,” Mr. McCain told supporters.
Mr. Obama’s triumph closed a 16-month primary campaign that broke records on several fronts: the number of voters who participated, the amount of money raised and spent and the sheer length of the fight. The campaign, infused by tensions over race and gender, provided unexpected twists to the end as Mr. Obama ultimately prevailed over Mrs. Clinton, who just a year ago appeared headed toward becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
The last two primaries reflected the party’s continuing divisions, as Mrs. Clinton won the South Dakota contest and Mr. Obama won Montana.
The race drew to its final hours with a burst of announcements — delegate by delegate — of Democrats stepping forward to declare their support for Mr. Obama. The Democratic establishment, from former President Jimmy Carter to rank-and-file local officials who make up the party’s superdelegates, rallied behind Mr. Obama as the day wore on.
When the day began, Mr. Obama needed 41 delegates to effectively claim the nomination. By the time the polls closed in Montana and South Dakota, Mr. Obama had secured the delegates he needed to end his duel with Mrs. Clinton, which wound through every state and territory in an unprecedented 57 contests over five months.
Every time a new endorsement was announced at the Obama headquarters in Chicago, campaign workers interrupted with a booming round of applause, followed by popping Champagne corks later in the evening. The aides are members of Mr. Obama’s team — a political start-up — that is responsible for defeating one of the most tried and tested teams in Democratic politics.
While the Democratic race may have ended, a new chapter began in the complicated tensions that have defined the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. On a conference call with members of the New York Congressional delegation on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton was asked whether she would be open to joining a ticket with Mr. Obama. She replied that she would do whatever she could — including a vice-presidential bid — to help Democrats win the White House.
Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, Democrat of New York, asked Mrs. Clinton whether she would consider teaming up with Mr. Obama. “She said that if it’s offered, she would take it,” Ms. Velázquez said later in an interview.
from The newyorktimes
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