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Obama Makes History

Democrats pick first African-American presidential nominee

By Suzanne Freeman | June 4 , 2008
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama greet supporters at an election night rally at the Xcel Energy Center June 3, 2008, in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama greet supporters at an election night rally at the Xcel Energy Center June 3, 2008, in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The rules were confusing and the campaign was long, but the numbers say it's finally over for the Democrats. Senator Barack Obama is the Democratic Party's presumed presidential nominee. He will face Republican Senator John McCain and candidates of other parties in the general election on November 4.

To become the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party in history, Obama won the 2,118 delegates needed after the last two states voted on Tuesday.

The two Democratic contenders split the two final states. Obama won Montana, while Senator Hillary Clinton took South Dakota. Before the final primary results were in, however, Obama could claim the nomination. He won enough superdelegates to hit the magic number as voters were still casting their ballots.

Superdelegates are party and elected officials who vote for candidates at the party's convention. They can declare for any candidate they want at any time, however. They can also change whom they vote for before the convention.

Undecided superdelegates began declaring for Obama before the polls closed in the final two states. Major cable news networks counted the delegates one at a time, announcing Obama to be 11 away, 10 away, then 1 away as election returns came in throughout the evening.

Final Primary Parties

Clinton held her final election night party in her home state of New York. She spoke at Baruch College in New York City, refusing to officially concede but sounding resigned to defeat.

"I want to start tonight congratulating Senator Obama and his supporters for the extraordinary race they have run," she said. "It is an honor to call him my friend, and I want to take a moment and recognize him and his supporters for all they have accomplished."

hillary clinton june 3, 2008
Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at her final primary night event in New York Tuesday, June 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
At the end of her speech, however, she stopped short of pulling out of the race.

"There is no reason to make any decisions tonight," she said.

Obama focused his attention on his Republican opponent in the general election. He celebrated his moment in history in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the site of the upcoming Republican convention in September.

"After 54 hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end,‰ Obama said. "Because of you tonight, I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America."

He also had kind words for his opponent. "Senator Clinton has made history in this campaign," he said. "Not because she is a woman who has done what no other woman has done before, but because she is a leader. I congratulate her on the race she has run throughout this contest."

He called for party unity to win the November 4 election and "bring change to Washington, D.C." He then launched into an attack on McCain, linking him to President George W. Bush's "failed policies of the past."

"We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless going into it," he said, listing other areas where he differed from McCain on major campaign issues like health care and the economy.

He concluded his speech with a call for change and a nod to history. "We are all Americans first, whether we are Republicans or Democrats," he said.

"America, this is our moment," he concluded. "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 this country that we love."

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Read today’s story and answer the following question.

blog it The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has been a long one. Do you think the extended contest has been good for the country? Why or why not? What have you learned about how the President of the United States is elected from the primaries?

Tell us what you think on the Scholastic News Online Blog!


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