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After Securing Democratic Nomination, Obama Faces Pressure on Vice Presidential Pick

Late Tuesday, Illinois Senator Barack Obama made history as the first African American to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party, becoming the presumptive Democratic standard bearer. But rival Senator Hillary Clinton has yet to formally recognize Obama's victory, and Clinton's political allies have launched an effort to pressure Obama to pick her as a running mate. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

Throughout America's history, only whites have risen to become presidential nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties - until now. In a nation that once enslaved black people and where segregation by race persisted for nearly a century thereafter, the son of a Kenyan immigrant will head the Democratic ticket in the November election.

Moments after securing enough delegates for the nomination, Barack Obama addressed supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another: a journey that will bring a new and better day to America," he said. "Because of you, tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States."

Moments earlier, a seemingly defiant Hillary Clinton made no mention of Obama's accomplishment in a speech to supporters in New York. Clinton, who finished the race trailing Obama by about 100 pledged delegates, but virtually tied in the popular vote, said the 18 million people who cast ballots for her should be, as she put it, "respected."

"Now the question is, where do we go from here? And, given how far we have come and where we need to go as a party, it is a question I do not take lightly," she said. "This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight."

Earlier in the day, Clinton was quoted by supporters as saying she would be open to serving as Obama's vice presidential nominee. Even as Democratic Party elders and elected officials rushed to endorse Obama Tuesday, many who had earlier supported Clinton told reporters they believe the Illinois Senator should pick Clinton as his running mate to help unify the party after an often-bruising primary campaign.

Obama and Clinton spoke briefly by telephone early Wednesday. Aides say the senators agreed on the need for a face-to-face meeting, but that no specifics were discussed.

Speaking on CBS TV's The Early Show, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said talk of the vice presidential selection is premature.

"We just passed the delegate threshold to be the nominee only a few hours ago," he said. "The vice presidential process is obviously going to begin in much more earnest today and throughout the coming days. Obviously we are going to take that process very, very seriously."

Gibbs added that he is confident that Democrats will unite to win the general election.

On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain became his party's presumptive nominee months ago. In a speech in New Orleans, McCain acknowledged Obama's nomination victory, but suggested the Illinois senator's program represents, as he put it, "the wrong change" for America.