Straits Times - June 4, 2008
Obama wins historic Democratic nomination
Clinton signals she would take VP slot
WASHINGTON/MINNESOTA - MR Barack Obama captured the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, capping a rapid rise from political obscurity to become the first black to lead a major United States party into a race for the White House.
Rival Hillary Clinton, a former first lady who entered the race 17 months ago as a heavy favourite, did not concede to Mr Obama and said she would consult with party leaders and supporters to determine her next move.
A surge of support from uncommitted delegates helped give Mr Obama the 2,118 votes he needed to clinch the nomination and defeat Mrs Clinton.
Mr Obama will be crowned the Democratic nominee at the convention in August and will face Republican John McCain in November's election to choose a successor to President George W. Bush.
'Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another,' Mr Obama told a cheering victory celebration in St Paul, Minnesota, at the site of the Republican convention in September.
'Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.'
'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 vowed as US media said he had clinched the party's nomination by securing the 2,118 delegates needed.
'America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past,' the Illinois senator pledged as he claimed the Democratic crown to run in the November general elections against Republican presumptive nominee John McCain.
'Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.'
At the end of the gruelling 17-month primary campaign, the longest and most expensive ever, Mr Obama, 46, was effusive in his praise for his defeated rival, former first lady Hillary Clinton.
'Senator 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,' he said.
And despite their bitter differences as they tussled to secure the party's nomination, Mr Obama paid tribute to Mrs Clinton's 'unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be'.
But he rounded on Mr McCain, warning voters that the Arizona senator would represent four more years of the same policies of outgoing President George W. Bush.
'There are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them,' he said.
'Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorised and never been waged.'
Longest and closest fight
Mr Obama's win over Mrs Clinton, projected by US networks, came in one of the closest and longest nomination fights in recent US political history. Five months of voting concluded on Tuesday night with votes in Montana, won by Mr Obama, and South Dakota, won by Mrs Clinton.
Mrs Clinton, who would have been the first woman nominee in US political history, won more than 1,900 delegates over the course of the campaign.
She told New York members of Congress she would be open to becoming Mr Obama's vice-presidential running mate, and her backers began to turn up the pressure on Mr Obama to pick her as his No. 2.
Mrs Clinton congratulated Mr Obama after he clinched the nomination, and told a cheering crowd of supporters in New York City that she would work for party unity. But she did not concede.
'This has been a long campaign and I will make no decisions tonight,' she said. '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 my country guiding my way.'
Mr McCain held a rally in Louisiana to kick off the race against Mr Obama. He sought to distance himself from Mr Bush and questioned Mr Obama's judgment and his willingness to put aside partisan interests.
'He is an impressive man, who makes a great first impression,' Mr McCain said of Mr Obama. 'But he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters to bring real change to Washington. I have.'
Mr Obama questioned the extent of Mr McCain's independence and tied him to Mr Bush.
Not that independent
'While John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign,' he said.
'There are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.'
Mr Obama, 46, is serving his first term in the US Senate from Illinois and would be the fifth-youngest president in history. He was an Illinois state senator when he burst on the national scene with a well received keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.
Mr Obama's campaign had urged the last 150 or so undecided superdelegates to make their endorsement before the voting ended, so the delegates he wins in the two states voting on Tuesday could allow him to clinch the Democratic race.
A steady flow of superdelegates complied, making their announcements throughout the day.
Mr Obama lavished praise on Mrs Clinton after beating her.
'Senator 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,' he said in his prepared text.
'Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton,' he said.
Mrs Clinton and her campaign have sent mixed signals over the last two days about how long she would stay in a presidential race that she began as a heavy favourite.
During the conference call with New York lawmakers on Tuesday, she was asked about running as the No. 2 to Mr Obama and said she was open to the idea.
'She said she would do whatever is necessary in order to make certain that we win, and serving as vice-president would be one of the things she would be willing to do,' Representative Charles Rangel of New York, a Clinton supporter who was on the conference call, said in a phone interview. - REUTERS, AFP