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It's Obama's party Illinois senator finally secures the Democratic nomination, and becomes the first black man to lead his party JOHN IBBITSON June 4, 2008 at 3:03 AM EDT WASHINGTON — This is history. Barack Obama is the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president, the first African-American to lead the party of Jefferson and Roosevelt. The Illinois senator secured the nomination last night after a spate of superdelegates – senior party politicians and officials – announced they would be supporting him at the Democratic National Convention in August. That, plus the pledged delegates he obtained after Tuesday's final two primaries in Montana and South Dakota, put Mr. Obama past the 2,118 delegates needed to win the convention. He secured the nomination even though he lost to New York Senator Hillary Clinton in South Dakota. The proportional method of allocating delegations ensured that Mr. Obama would cross the threshold despite losing the state. In compensation, Mr. Obama won Montana, though both states are among the smallest in the union in terms of delegate count. “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 declared last night in a speech in St. Paul, Minn. “Tonight, I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.” Obama makes history Illinois senator Barack Obama has laid claim to the Democratic presidential nomination, making him the first black man to lead his party Hillary Clinton Clinton's next move Hillary Clinton will acknowledge that Barack Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, campaign officials said Related Articles Acknowledging the rifts of race and gender and class that had opened in the party during the 17-month race, Mr. Obama urged Democrats to “unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.” And he lavished praise on his rival, lauding Ms. Clinton's “unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. “And you can rest assured,” he added, “that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory.” For her part, Ms. Clinton offered a speech to supporters in New York that was largely elegiac in nature. “I will carry your stories and your dreams with me every day for the rest of my life,” she promised her supporters. But Ms. Clinton was not prepared to make any public declarations or concessions. “This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decision tonight,” she told supporters at her rally in New York. “In the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way,” she said. Ms. Clinton did, however, indicate in a conference call to members of her party's New York congressional delegation, that she would be open to serving as Mr. Obama's vice-president, if asked, though a campaign spokesman said this was no more than a repetition of her pledge to do whatever she could to ensure victory for the Democrats in November.The next few days could foment intense speculation on where and when Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton will meet, what she will be asking for, and what he is prepared to offer, as she arranges her formal departure from the campaign. Although the Democratic Party has been energized by this contest, with record turnouts in state after state, the fight has also divided the party along racial and gender lines. Many female Democrats bitterly complain that sexist attitudes, particularly in the media, contributed to Ms. Clinton's loss, while Mr. Obama's supporters say they had to overcome racist attitudes among some voters. Exit polls in South Dakota revealed that 55 per cent of Democrats want Mr. Obama to pick Ms. Clinton as his running mate, though 41 per cent do not. But when only Obama supporters were sampled, 56 per cent wanted her kept off the ticket, a sign of how raw emotions have been rubbed. For 17 months, Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton have fought each other for the nomination, in one of the epic political contests of modern times. For much of that contest, Ms. Clinton seemed the inevitable winner. But she and others had not reckoned on Mr. Obama's extraordinary ability to galvanize younger voters, to raise more than $200-million, mostly through small donations, to rally both less affluent African-Americans and upscale liberals to his cause, marrying a message of hope and reform to the most powerful oratory seen in America since the days of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. They fought to a draw until February, when Mr. Obama racked up an impressive and unanswered string of victories, mostly in smaller states. Ms. Clinton came back with wins in the Midwest and Appalachia, forging her own coalition of lower-income white voters plus women. But it was the party elders, the superdelegates, who had the final say in this race. And although Ms. Clinton had a grip on them at the start, by the end it was obvious they had collectively decided to give the nomination to Mr. Obama. About 200 of the superdelegates stayed uncommitted until the problem of seating the Michigan and Florida delegations — the two states had violated party rules by holding their primaries in January — was resolved over the weekend. Then Tuesday, in what appears to have been a move orchestrated by the Obama campaign, the superdelegate endorsements began pouring in, until by the time the polls closed in Montana and South Dakota the tally there was almost irrelevant. The most prominent among them was former president Jimmy Carter, who told The Associated Press Tuesday afternoon that “the fact is the Obama people already know they have my vote when the polls close tonight.” So the national presidential election race is fully under way, five months before the actual vote, with John McCain standing for the Republicans and Barack Obama for the Democrats. Mr. McCain acknowledged as much himself, in a speech last night in New Orleans. “Pundits and party elders have declared that Senator Obama will be my opponent,” he told supporters “He will be a formidable one. But I welcome the challenge.” The war in Iraq will figure prominently in this contest, since Mr. McCain wants to stay the course and Mr. Obama wants to bring the troops home. There will be contrasting policies as well on tax cuts and health care and trade, though both candidates are committed to fighting global warming. But as with all elections, the real choices will be intangible: youth versus experience, social justice versus individual freedom, leadership you can trust versus a new voice for America. The presidential race promises to be no less epic than that for the Democratic nomination. This election will be one for the books. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080604.wprimarymain04/BNStory/usElection2008/home