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Obama clinches Democratic nomination

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Associated Press and Herald Staff
Published:
WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois sealed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation’s first black president. A defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket.
Obama’s victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a race between a 46-year-old opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.
Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage four years ago, defeated Clinton, the former first lady and one-time campaign front-runner, in a 17-month marathon for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton won Tuesday's primary in South Dakota, and Obama won Montana.
Obama's overall victory had been widely assumed for weeks. But Clinton’s declaration of interest in becoming his ticketmate was wholly unexpected.
She expressed it in a conference call with her state’s congressional delegation after Rep. Nydia Velazquez, predicted Obama would have great difficulty winning the support of Hispanics and other voting blocs unless the former first lady was on the ticket.
“I am open to it” if it would help the party’s prospects in November, Clinton replied, according to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the call was private.
Obama’s campaign had no reaction to Clinton’s comments, which raised anew the prospect of what many Democrats have called a “Dream Ticket” that would put a black man and a woman on the same ballot.
When news spread that Obama had clinched the nomination based on Associated Press tallies, Clinton supporters were disappointed.
Deano Garcia of Tulalip was annoyed that the media was ahead of the party’s official nomination process.
“I think that they both should still be able to go all the way and figure this completely out,” said Garcia, 49. “Why don’t we let the numbers come through before the media announces who is the winner? The nomination needs to be completed before they announce it. It throws everybody for a loop.”
“I’m still hoping for Hillary,” Garcia added. His wife Stella, and son, Christian, are Obama supporters, and the family has had heated debates for months over who should be the next president.
If Obama does clinch the nomination as reported, Garcia said he might have to hold his nose and vote for McCain.
“I’ve never voted Republican since Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I can’t say if I made my mind up 100 percent.”
It might come down to the last minute in November, he said.
Diehard Clinton supporter Kyleigh Robinson was learning about the electoral college in high school government class Tuesday at Sno-Isle Tech.
News that Obama had clinched the nomination was disappointing, she said.
“I really really would like to see her get the nomination, but at the same time I can’t see it happening anymore because of all of the drama,” said Robinson, 18, who is studying welding and metal fabrication and attending Everett High School.
This election is her first – but she might not vote now.
“Right now, I’m sitting back and I’ll see what happens. Whether or not I don’t vote or who I vote for if she doesn’t get the nomination. If she doesn’t get the nomination, I don’t know if I’ll vote. Neither one of them (Obama or McCain) sound too promising.”
Sharon Hopkins Lanning of Everett had desperately wanted to see a woman president within her lifetime.
“I’m just very disappointed,” said Hopkins Lanning, 69. The media showed a gender bias that was unfair to Clinton, she said.
The retired Mukilteo school teacher said she toyed with voting for Clinton as a write-in candidate, but now is pinning her hopes to an Obama-Clinton ticket.
“I’ll vote for a Democrat. I will vote for Barack Obama, but very resignedly,” she said. “I wish he would offer her the vice presidency. At least if I don’t get to see a woman president, at least I’ll get to see a woman vice president. I’d be thoroughly excited to vote for that ticket. Then I would have no doubts.”
By David Espo And Nedra Pickler
Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Before a crowd of cheering thousands, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois laid claim to the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, taking a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation’s first black president.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket without conceding her own defeat.
“America, this is our moment,” the 46-year-old senator and one-time community organizer said in his first appearance as the Democratic nominee-in-waiting. “This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past.”
Obama’s victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a race between a first-term Senate opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.
And both men seemed eager to begin.
McCain spoke first, in New Orleans, and he accused his younger rival of voting “to deny funds to the soldiers who have done a brilliant and brave job” in Iraq. It was a reference to 2007 legislation to pay for the Iraq war, a measure Obama opposed citing the lack of a timetable for withdrawing troops.
McCain agreed with Obama that the presidential race would focus on change. “But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward,” he said.
Obama responded quickly, pausing only long enough to praise Clinton for “her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.”
As for his general election rival, he said, “It’s not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
“It’s not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs. ... And it’s not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave young men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians.”
In a symbolic move, Obama spoke in the same hall — filled to capacity — where McCain will accept the Republican nomination at his party’s convention in September.
One campaign began as another was ending.
Clinton won South Dakota on the final night of the primary season; Obama took Montana.
The former first lady praised her rival warmly in an appearance before supporters in New York in which she neither acknowledged Obama’s victory nor offered a concession of any sort.
Instead, she said she was committed to a united party, and said she would spend the next few days determining “how to move forward with the best interests of our country and our party guiding my way.”
Only 31 delegates were at stake in the two states on the night’s ballot, the final few among the thousands that once drew Obama, Clinton and six other Democratic candidates into the campaign to replace Bush and become the nation’s 44th president.
Obama sealed his nomination, according to an Associated Press tally, based on primary elections, state Democratic caucuses and support from party “superdelegates.” It takes 2,118 delegates to clinch the nomination at the convention in Denver this summer, and Obama had 2,144 by the AP count.
Obama, a first-term senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage four years ago, defeated Clinton, the former first lady and one-time campaign front-runner, in a 17-month marathon for the Democratic nomination.
His victory had been widely assumed for weeks. But Clinton’s declaration of interest in becoming his ticketmate was wholly unexpected.
She expressed it in a conference call with her state’s congressional delegation after Rep. Nydia Velazquez, predicted Obama would have great difficulty winning the support of Hispanics and other voting blocs unless the former first lady was on the ticket.
“I am open to it” if it would help the party’s prospects in November, Clinton replied, according to participants who spoke on condition of anonymity because the call was private.
Clinton’s comments raised anew the prospect of what many Democrats have called a “Dream Ticket” that would put a black man and a woman on the same ballot, but Obama’s aides were noncommittal. “We’re not in the presidential phase here. We’re going to close out the nominating fight and then we’ll consider that,” David Axelrod, Obama’s top strategist, told reporters aboard the candidate’s plane en route to Minnesota.
McCain’s criticism of Obama referred to a vote last year in which the Illinois senator came out against legislation paying for the Iraq war because it did not include a timetable for withdrawing troops. At the time, Obama said the funding would give President Bush “a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path.”
Obama previously had opposed a deadline for troop withdrawal, but shifted position under pressure from the Democratic Party’s liberal wing as he maneuvered for support in advance of the primaries.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, responded tartly. “While John McCain has a record of occasional independence from his party in the past, last year he chose to embrace 95% of George Bush’s agenda, including his failed economic policies and his failed policy in Iraq. No matter how hard he tries to spin it otherwise, that kind of record is simply not the change the American people are looking for or deserve.”
The young Illinois senator’s success amounted to a victory of hope over experience, earned across an enervating 56 primaries and caucuses that tested the political skills and human endurance of all involved.
Obama stood for change. Clinton was the candidate of experience, ready, she said, to serve in the Oval Office from Day One.
Together, they drew record turnouts in primary after primary — more than 34 million voters in all, independents and Republicans as well as Democrats.
Yet the race between a black man and a woman exposed deep racial and gender divisions within the party.
Obama drew strength from blacks, and from the younger, more liberal and wealthier voters in many states. Clinton was preferred by older, more downscale voters, and women, of course.
Personality issues rose and receded through the campaign.
Clinton’s husband, the former president, campaigned tirelessly for her but sometimes became an issue himself, to her detriment.
And Obama struggled to minimize the damage caused by the incendiary rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an issue likely to be raised anew by Republicans in the fall campaign.
Obama’s triumph was fashioned on prodigious fundraising, meticulous organizing and his theme of change aimed at an electorate opposed to the Iraq war and worried about the economy — all harnessed to his own gifts as an inspirational speaker.
With her husband’s two White House terms as a backdrop, Clinton campaigned for months as the candidate of experience, a former first lady and second-term senator ready to be commander in chief.
But after a year on the campaign trail, Obama won the kickoff Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, and the freshman senator became a political phenomenon.
“We came together as Democrats, as Republicans and independents, to stand up and say we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come,” he said that night of victory in Des Moines.
As the strongest female presidential candidate in history, Clinton drew large, enthusiastic audiences. Yet Obama’s were bigger. One audience, in Dallas, famously cheered when he blew his nose on stage; a crowd of 75,000 turned out in Portland, Ore., the weekend before the state’s May 20 primary.
The former first lady countered Obama’s Iowa victory with an upset five days later in New Hampshire that set the stage for a campaign marathon as competitive as any in the past generation.
“Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice,” she told supporters who had saved her candidacy from an early demise.
In defeat, Obama’s aides concluded they had committed a cardinal sin of New Hampshire politics, forsaking small, intimate events in favor of speeches to large audiences inviting them to ratify Iowa’s choice.
It was not a mistake they made again — which helped explain Obama’s later outings to bowling alleys, backyard basketball courts and American Legion halls in the heartland.
Clinton conceded nothing, memorably knocking back a shot of Crown Royal whiskey at a bar in Indiana, recalling that her grandfather had taught her to use a shotgun, and driving in a pickup to a gas station in South Bend, Ind., to emphasize her support for a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax.
As other rivals fell away in winter, Obama and Clinton traded victories on Super Tuesday, the Feb. 5 series of primaries and caucuses across 21 states and American Samoa that once seemed likely to settle the nomination.
But Clinton had a problem that Obama exploited, and he scored a coup she could not answer.
Pressed for cash, the former first lady ran noncompetitive campaigns in several Super Tuesday caucus states, allowing her rival to run up his delegate totals.
At the same time, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., endorsed the young senator in terms that summoned memories of his slain brothers while seeking to turn the page on the Clinton era.
Merely by surviving Super Tuesday, Obama exceeded expectations. But he did more than survive, emerging with a lead in delegates that he never relinquished, and he proceeded to run off a string of 11 straight victories.
Clinton saved her candidacy once more with primary victories in Ohio and Texas on March 4, beginning a stretch in which she won in six of the next nine states on the calendar, as well as in Puerto Rico.
It was a strong run, providing glimpses of what might have been for the one-time front-runner.

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