Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Obama clinches Democratic Presidential nomination

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois sealed the Democratic Presidential nomination on Tuesday, a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation's first black President. A vanquished Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket.

Obama's victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Senator 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 US military mission.

Both men promptly exchanged criticism over the war in Iraq and sought to claim the mantle of change in a country plainly tired of the status quo.

''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,'' Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery in St Paul, Minn.

''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, he spoke in the same hall where McCain will accept the Republican nomination at his party's convention in September.

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 added.

One campaign began as another was ending.

On the final night of the primary season, Clinton won South Dakota, leaving Montana yet to be settled.

The former first lady praised her rival, whom she said, ''has inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved. And our party and our democracy is stronger and more vibrant as a result.''

''I am committed to uniting our party so we move forward stronger and more ready than ever to take back the White House in November,'' she said in a final-night rally in New York.

Only 31 delegates were at stake, 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.