Obama: 'I'm the nominee'
Update: Clinton wins SD, won't concede until she speaks to Obama
Barack Obama will officially claim the Democratic Party's nomination Tuesday night, according to his prepared remarks.
"Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States," Obama said in his victory speech after effectively locking up the Democratic nomination.
Despite an unexpected loss in South Dakota, Obama still secured commitments from a majority of Democratic delegates. As polls closed in Montana, which Obama won, as expected, 26.5 superdelegates announced they would endorse Obama.
Hillary Clinton scored an unexpected upset in South Dakota's primary Tuesday night, according to network projections. But the result was ultimately meaningless as it didn't prevent Obama from securing commitments of a majority of Democratic delegates.
Various reports have indicated that she is now seeking to become Obama's running mate; she told supporters Tuesday night that she's making no decisions yet.
NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported she wants to have a private conversation with Obama before deciding her future plans.
"She doesn't want to concede or embrace him until she's had a chance to sit down with him and explore what is on his mind and her mind," Mitchell reported on MSNBC based on her conversations with Clinton campaign officials. The meeting could happen as soon as Wednesday evening, when both Obama and Clinton will be in New York, according to Mitchell.
Obama reportedly called Clinton Tuesday night but was unable to reach her. He left a message congratulating her on the South Dakota win and asking for a call back.
Clinton's public schedule does not include any events beyond her Wednesday address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
With 31 pledged delegates at stake in South Dakota and Montana, Obama is guaranteed to achieve 2,118 delegate commitments Tuesday night, no matter whether he wins those states or not. His campaign released news of a slew of superdelegate endorsements throughout the day Tuesday, and he was just eight delegates short of the magic number as of 8:15 p.m., according to the campaign's tally.
The Associated Press reported early Tuesday afternoon that Obama would clinch the delegate count, and that assessment was soon backed up by ABC News.
By unveiling dozens of endorsements from superdelegates -- along with the support of elected delegates who had been pledged to former Sen. John Edwards -- Obama assured he would get to his magic number Tuesday night, no matter what.
Indeed, attention shifted almost completely from the results in South Dakota and New Hampshire. As South Dakota polls closed at 9 p.m., NBC News joined its fellow networks in declaring Obama the presumptive nominee. That exit polls showed the state was too close to call was virtually an afterthought, despite the fact that Obama had long been expected to win the state.
Naturally, the superdelegates whose pledged support pushed Obama over the top could still change their minds, and nothing will become official until the Democrats' convention in August. Barring an unexpected turn of events though, Obama will begin transitioning to general election mode, and he and Clinton will need to begin repairing the rift in the Democratic Party that has opened during their brutal, protracted primary race.
Obama was set to deliver his remarks from St. Paul, Minn., at the same arena where GOP nominee John McCain will formally accept the Republican nomination later this summer. Obama said McCain has "served his country heroically" but would not offer the change the country needs.
Itís not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five 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, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college Ė policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.
And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians Ė a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.
Obama also praised his vanquished Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton, crediting her with running an exceptional campaign and perhaps previewing the role she would play in an Obama administration.
"When we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen," he said. "Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Clinton seems to be angling for the No. 2 spot on an Obama ticket, telling New York lawmakers earlier Tuesday she is "open to" being Obama's vice president.
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 plan en route to Minnesota.
With wire reports
Full text of Obama's speech, as prepared for delivery, appears below the video:
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast June 3, 2008.
Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.
Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said Ė because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another Ė a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign Ė through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.
At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.
That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because sheís a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because sheís a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.
Weíve certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone whoís shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning Ė even in the face of tough odds Ė is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Childrenís Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency Ė an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isnít just about the party in charge of Washington, itís about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we arenít the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didnít do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment Ė a moment that will define a generation Ė we cannot afford to keep doing what weíve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say Ė let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.
In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.
Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.
Itís not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
Itís not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college Ė policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.
And itís not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians Ė a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isnít making the American people any safer.
So Iíll say this Ė there are many words to describe John McCainís attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bushís policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.
Change is a foreign policy that doesnít begin and end with a war that shouldíve never been authorized and never been waged. I wonít stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but whatís not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years Ė especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.
We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must. Itís time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. Itís time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. Itís time to refocus our efforts on al Qaedaís leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century Ė terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. Thatís what change is.
Change is realizing that meeting todayís threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy Ė tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isnít afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy. Thatís what the American people want. Thatís what change is.
Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. Itís understanding that the struggles facing working families canít be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. Itís understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President.
John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy Ė cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota Ė heíd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.
Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still canít pay the medical bills for a sister whoís ill, heíd understand that she canít afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. She needs us to pass health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it. Thatís the change we need.
Maybe if he went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but canít even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, heíd understand that we canít afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future Ė an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and canít be outsourced. Thatís the change we need.
And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, heíd understand that we canít afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. Thatís the change we need in America. Thatís why Iím running for President.
The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you donít deserve is another election thatís governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you wonít hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon Ė that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.
Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. Iíve walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. Iíve sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. And Iíve worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.
In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedomís cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world thatís better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment Ė this was the time Ė when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.