It’s final: Barack Obama is Democratic candidate (Lead)

June 4th, 2008 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 4 (IANS) Barack Obama has secured the Democratic presidential nomination to make history as the first black to lead a major party ticket in America, but vanquished rival Hillary Clinton still has not called it quits. A split verdict in the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota coupled with a last-minute rush of Democratic super delegates Tuesday pushed Obama over the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at the party’s convention in Denver this August.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” said Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white American mother, at a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, to claim the Democratic nomination.

“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. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

Obama needed 41 delegates to effectively claim the nomination as the polling began in the two states Tuesday. But just as the polls began to close, super delegates, who hold the balance of power in a tight race as they are not bound by the primary results, started rallying behind Obama.

Among those endorsing Obama Tuesday was former president Jimmy Carter who like other senior party officials had been patiently waiting in the wings for the primaries to end.

For the record, Clinton did win the primary in South Dakota by a double-digit margin, while Obama did so in Montana to proportionately share the 31 delegates from the two states.

Clinton, who hoped to become the first woman president, acknowledged at a rally of her own in New York that she had finally run into a dead end after five months of a fierce and bitter struggle, but she still did not leave the race.

“This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight,” Clinton said amid reports that she would be open to becoming Obama’s vice presidential running mate if an offer came her way. She said she would be speaking with party officials about her next move.

In a combative speech, 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 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected,” she said to loud cheers.

At the same time Clinton acknowledged the incredible run of Obama, who served as an Illinois state senator just four years ago saying: “It has been an honour to contest the primaries with him, just as it has been an honour to call him my friend.”

Under the US system, the party nominees are not picked up by the popular vote. It’s the delegates elected in the name of a particular candidate at the primaries who choose the candidate at the party convention.

Meanwhile, on a conference call Tuesday with Democratic lawmakers from New York, Clinton was asked whether she would be open to joining a ticket with Obama. She replied that she would do whatever she could - including a vice presidential bid - to help Democrats win the White House.

Nydia M. Vel

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