Obama Claims the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaks before thousands of supporters in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, as he earned enough delegates to claim his party's nomination. Obama praised his democratic challengers, especially Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Video by AP
By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; 6:06 PM

Sen. Barack Obama claimed the Democratic nomination for president in a speech in Minnesota tonight -- an historic achievement that for the first time will place an African American at the top of a major political party's ticket.

After months of see-saw battling with his arch Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, ending tonight with Obama and Clinton splitting primaries in Montana and South Dakota, Obama will be immediately thrust into a pitched general election battle with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee.

In speeches by both men tonight, they sought to define the parameters of the contest to come. Obama cast McCain as an insufficient change agent after eight years of George W. Bush's presidency. McCain insisted that Obama represents the wrong kind of change.

In a speech to a raucus crowd at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Obama declared: "Tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States."

Obama went on to praise his Democratic opponents as "the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office," but he saved special plaudits for Clinton.

He referred to the former first lady as "a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight." Obama wasn't done. "Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton," he said.

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