Barack Obama claimed the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Tuesday, after winning a majority of delegates to the party's nominating convention, which will be held in August. Mike O'Sullivan reports that Obama claimed victory as the primary election season came to an end, with contests in Montana and South Dakota.
Even before the Montana polls had closed, the Illinois senator had gained a clear majority of delegates to the nominating convention as, one by one, uncommitted super delegates - party officials and elected leaders - moved over to his column.
He spoke to supporters in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Republican Party's September convention.
"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 the president of the United States of America."
The 46-year-old first-term senator is the first African American to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major American party. He fought a bruising campaign against New York Senator Hillary Clinton, through more than 50 primaries and caucuses in U.S. states and territories.
Senator Clinton, addressing her supporters in New York, did not concede the race.
"Now, the question is, where do we go from here? And, given how far we've come and where we need to go as a party, it's a question I don't take lightly," she said. "This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight."
She says she will consult with supporters and party officials before making her decision.
There have been harsh words exchanged during the campaign, but Senator Clinton said she was honored to compete against Barack Obama and to call him friend.
Senator Obama also had praise for his rival.
"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."
Each candidate has earned impressive primary and caucus wins in a hard-fought campaign season, and to the end both candidates scored victories. Obama won Tuesday in Montana and Clinton took South Dakota. Some Democrats are hoping for a so-called "dream ticket" that would pair the two, with Obama as presidential nominee and Clinton as vice-presidential running mate.
The presumed Republican candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, set his sights on the general election in remarks to his supporters Tuesday in Louisiana. Noting that Obama has campaigned on the theme of change, McCain said Americans are distressed with many changes they now see, from high energy and food prices to job losses.
"This is indeed a change election. No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically," he said. "But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward."
McCain promised sweeping reform of government if he is elected.