Obama Proclaims Victory
In an electrifying speech before a gargantuan crowd, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) claimed the hard-fought Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night even though his fierce rival for the nod and fellow Senator did not concede. After winning enough delegates in the last duo of primaries in Montana and South Dakota to secure the 2,118 pledged delegates needed to clinch the nod, Obama told a 17,000-person crowd in St. Paul, Minn., that the race for the Democratic nod was effectively over. “Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States,” Obama pronounced to a wildly enthusiastic crowd in what appeared like a convention acceptance speech. In fact, the speech was at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the site of the Republican convention. Obama’s campaign simultaneously announced the backing of 26.5 superdelegates, the elected officials who are not bound to any candidate, including Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and at least eight previously undecided House Members: Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Ron Klein (D-Fla.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.). Despite that declaration, Obama’s rival for the Democratic nod, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), did not concede. In a speech before a smaller but raucous crowd in New York, Clinton said she would be “making no decisions tonight.” “I want to hear from you,” she told the 18 million supporters who voted for her in the primary, explaining that she planned to consult with them and party leaders and let the “best interests of our party and our country guide my way” in deciding the fate of her bid in the coming days. Instead of conceding, Clinton defiantly laid out the case for why she is the strongest Democratic candidate in November against presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). “We won together the swing states necessary to get 270 electoral votes,” Clinton said. “While the primary was long, I am so glad we stayed the course together.” Clinton did congratulate Obama for running an “extraordinary race” that “inspired” and “empowered” voters, especially young ones. But she did not recognize Obama for taking the lead in the pledged delegate count. But Obama went out of his way to be gracious to his longtime rival in the frequently bitter Democratic primary, saluting her candidacy as historic. “Sen. Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight,” Obama said. “We’ve certainly had our differences over the last 16 months. But as someone who’s shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning – even in the face of tough odds … an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be.