Networks: Obama clinches nomination
Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates, becoming the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House.
ABC News followed suit in the early evening, projecting that Obama "will have enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination after the votes from the final primary contests are counted tonight." CNN projected the same by 9PM Eastern.
Campaigning on an insistent call for change, Obama outlasted former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a historic race that sparked record turnout in primary after primary, yet exposed deep racial divisions within the party.
The 46-year-old first-term senator will face Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the fall campaign to become the 44th president.
Clinton was ready to concede that her rival had amassed the delegates needed to triumph, according to officials in her campaign. These officials said the New York senator did not intend to suspend or end her candidacy in a speech Tuesday night in New York. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to divulge her plans.
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 innate gifts as a campaigner.
Clinton campaigned for months as the candidate of experience, a former first lady and second-term senator ready, she said, to take over on Day One.
But after a year on the trail, Obama won the kickoff Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, and the freshman senator became something of an overnight 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 in Des Moines.
As the strongest female presidential candidate in history, Clinton drew large, enthusiastic audiences. Yet Obama's were bigger still. 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.
As other rivals quickly fell away in winter, the strongest black candidate in history and the strongest female White House contender 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, yet sought to turn the page on the Clinton era.
Kennedy said in a reference to former President Clinton: "There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a new frontier. He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic president, who was widely respected in the party."
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 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 primaries in six of the final nine states on the calendar.
It was a strong run, providing glimpses of what might have been for the one-time front-runner.
But by then Obama was well on his way to victory, Clinton and her allies stressed the popular vote instead of delegates. Yet he seemed to emerge from each loss with residual strength.
Obama's bigger-than-expected victory in North Carolina on May 6 offset his narrow defeat in Indiana the same day. Four days later, he overtook Clinton's lead among superdelegates, the party leaders she had hoped would award her the nomination on the basis of a strong showing in swing states.
Obama lost West Virginia by a whopping 67 percent to 26 percent on May 13. Yet he won an endorsement the following day from former presidential rival and one-time North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
Clinton administered another drubbing in Kentucky a week later. This time, Obama countered with a victory in Oregon, and turned up that night in Iowa to say he had won a majority of all the delegates available in 56 primaries and caucuses on the calendar.
Race, religion, region and gender became political fault lines as the two campaigned from coast to coast.
Along the way, Obama showed an ability to weather the inevitable controversies, most notably one caused by the incendiary rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Clinton struggled with self-inflicted wounds. Most prominently, she claimed to have come under sniper fire as first lady more than a decade earlier while paying a visit to Bosnia.
Instead, videotapes showed her receiving a gift of flowers from a young girl who greeted her plane.
With wire services.