Obama makes history as first black to clinch Democratic nomination (Second Lead)

June 4th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 4 (IANS) Son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, Barack Obama made history as he sealed the Democratic presidential nomination to become the first black person to lead a major party ticket in the race for the White House. 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 winning the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the party’s convention in Denver in August.

“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,” he told a crowd of cheering and chanting supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” said Obama.

But in victory, he also offered praise to his vanquished rival, Hillary Clinton. “She has made history not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she is a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight,” he said.

As he gears himself for the November presidential battle with presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, Obama still faces a sizeable job of uniting his party. Clinton has pledged to help unify the party, but Tuesday night she signalled that she will do so on her own timetable.

Clinton, who waged a fierce campaign to become the first woman nominated for the presidency, spoke shortly before Obama at a rally in New York. Amid questions about when or whether she would quit the race, she declared: “This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.”

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 super delegates 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.

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. But 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 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.”

Talk of a possible Clinton vice presidency came out of a discussion she held with supporters in the New York congressional delegation.

Representative Nydia M. Velazquez said she had implored Clinton to think about the passionate support her candidacy has received from Latino voters, who will be crucial to Democratic chances in November.

“She said if she was asked, she would consider it,” Velazquez said. “She said, ‘Look, I will do whatever it takes to defeat McCain in November.’”

While her advisers played down the remark’s significance, the Democrats on the call said that by not demurring or saying she would simply think about it, they said they were left with the impression that it was an offer that she wanted to at least consider.

Neither Obama nor his associates commented on the speculation, and he made no reference to it in his speech Tuesday in Minnesota, which was delivered at the same arena in which McCain is expected to formally accept the Republican nomination at the party’s convention in September.

However, he did compliment his gritty rival. “Our party and our country are better off because of her,” Obama said, “and I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

The end of the primary season shifts the presidential campaign to a new phase as Obama and McCain started training their guns on each other in the run-up to the November presidential election.

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