Obama Is Poised To Clinch Victory

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) clinches enough pledged delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, as polls closed in the last state primary elections in South Dakota and Montana, June 3, 2008.
By Shailagh Murray and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TROY, Mich., June 2 -- On the eve of the final two primaries of a five-month marathon, Sen. Barack Obama stood poised to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed whether to stay in the race in hopes of delaying what appears to be an inevitable outcome.

Obama is optimistic that he will be able to claim victory Tuesday evening at a gathering in St. Paul, Minn., with superdelegates preparing to rally to his candidacy on the eve of the day's contests in South Dakota and Montana and push him past the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Clinton sent mixed signals about her plans throughout the day Monday. As her campaign recalled field staffers to New York, one adviser indicated that she would suspend, but not end, her campaign within days. But the candidate herself said she will continue to argue to the group of party insiders who will hold sway over the final outcome that her strong showing in recent contests demonstrates that she would be the more electable candidate in November.

"Tomorrow is the last day of the primaries and the beginning of a new phase in the campaign," Clinton said in Yankton, S.D., before she prepared to depart for a Tuesday-night rally in New York. "After South Dakota and Montana vote, I will lead in the popular vote and Senator Obama will lead in the delegate count. The voters will have voted, and so the decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote at the Democratic convention. I will be spending the coming days making my case to those delegates."

Party leaders worked behind the scenes to establish an outcome that would limit the long-term damage from the protracted and divisive campaign, hoping to provide a quick and graceful exit for Clinton and clear the path for the first African American presidential nominee.

On Capitol Hill, three uncommitted senators, Tom Harkin (Iowa), Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.), met Monday to discuss a "quick conclusion" to the Democratic race, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) privately urged them to delay any announcement until the final votes have been counted, according to multiple Democratic sources.

But prominent Democrats predicted that members of Congress would unite around Obama's candidacy before week's end, and Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the highest-ranking African American in the House leadership, plans to announce his support for Obama on Tuesday. And indications were that others, including Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, would endorse Obama after the votes come in from their state. Governors from the opposing camps also floated the idea of a joint event in the coming days to show their support for the front-runner.

Campaigning Monday in Michigan, a key November battleground, Obama said he considers Clinton a valued ally in his general-election contest against Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive GOP nominee. Clinton ran "an outstanding race," Obama told a packed crowd in this middle-class suburb of Detroit. He vowed, "She and I will be working together in November."

At a later stop in Waterford, Obama recounted for reporters a telephone conversation he had with Clinton on Sunday in which he congratulated her for winning the Puerto Rico primary. He said he told her that "once the dust settled, I was looking forward to meeting her at a time and place of her choosing" to talk about the campaign's next phase. In the meantime, he added, "we've still got two more contests to go."

Obama said he also told Clinton that "there aren't too many people who understand how hard she's been working." He added: "I'm one of them, because she and I have been on this same journey together."

As Clinton made a final push for votes across South Dakota, her advisers said her options ranged from dropping out Tuesday night and endorsing Obama to making a final effort to convince uncommitted superdelegates that she would be a stronger rival to McCain.

Another, according to senior Clinton advisers, is what they dubbed the "middle option," for Clinton to suspend her campaign, acknowledging that Obama has crossed the delegate threshold but keeping her options open until the convention in late August. Advisers said she is looking at historical precedent while weighing her recent victories, including her landslide win in Puerto Rico, in trying to sort out what to do.

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