Illinois senator Barack Obama, 46, effectively clinched the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, having won enough superdelegate commitments to put him over the edge after the polls closed in the last two states. Voters in Montana and South Dakota headed to the polls to cast ballots that would turn the final page on the Democratic nomination calendar and seal the contentious, five-month primary battle between the two frosty rivals.
Obama becomes the first black candidate to win the presidential nomination of a major US political party. Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to officially suspend her campaign for the presidency by the end of the week, but could move on for the VP slot. Clinton told New York politicians that she would be willing to join Obama's ticket as the candidate for vice president. The Clinton campaign issued a statement saying that she was open to becoming VP. However, Obama's spokesman said that Obama has not raised the issue of vice presidency; and that there had been "absolutely zero discussion" on the matter.
Now that Clinton is angling to become Obama's running mate, the question of how two feuding rivals and seething camps might come together without sticking flag pins into each other. Many influential Democratic Party leaders have already called on the two candidates to focus on the general election to be held in November. Some suggest that putting Clinton on the ticket might fit the bill for uniting Democrats divided by the protracted primary season.
Seeking to put the primary battle behind him, Obama has in recent days stopped engaging Clinton on the campaign field; and has turned his rhetoric on Republican nominee John McCain, a senator from Arizona. McCain has reciprocated, while Clinton is largely ignored by the two new rivals in the final race. Obama deliberately held a rally Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Republican Party convention in September.
As the superdelegates flocked to Obama, the Republican national committee released a memo describing what it deems are his chief weaknesses heading into the general election against Republican nominee John McCain. Republicans said that the prolonged fight for nomination has left the Democratic Party divided. "He will inherit a fractured party that is deeply divided over his role as standard-bearer and his ability to be president," read the memo. It added that Obama's support in primary contests had been eroded.
Nevertheless, Clinton has refused to acknowledge defeat and vowed to fight on despite a major setback over the weekend, saying she snared more popular votes than any primary candidate in history. But primaries come down to delegates, and Obama has her beaten: 2,156 to 1,923.
Even so, Obama and his camp cannot afford to dismiss her, or more precisely, the more than 17 million voters who turned out for her, including masses of blue-collar voters in the swing states: Hispanics and older voters, especially women. Billionaire businessman Bob Johnson, one of many influential Clinton supporters, suggested that Obama could best forge party unity by offering Clinton the slot for vice president. He, along with other powerful Clinton supporters, has proposed that she join Obama on the ticket, saying that she has solid credentials and wide appeal best exemplified by her popular support in states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, which will be crucial to a Democratic victory in the fall.
But with some Democrats clamoring for her to join Obama as his running mate and to forge the so-called "Dream team," not many are optimistic about the plan. Even party leader and U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Obama himself, have a lingering fear of the two teaming up.
By Li Xuejiang, People's Daily correspondent in Washington, translated by People's Daily Online