Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama says Democratic nomination in reach

Back to its beginnings,
campaign draws 7,000
in Des Moines rally
as new delegate totals

show Obama winning

DES MOINES — With the Democratic nomination just a hairbreadth away Barack Obama brought his historic candidacy back to the state that high-jumped him into an epic political encounter with Hillary Clinton.

In a meticulously choreographed rally in downtown Des Moines, with the State Capitol as a backdrop, large American flags hanging from East Village buildings, and 7,000 people jammed into the blocks around the stage to shout trademark cheers, Obama, the Illinois senator, said what the numbers show: He’s secured the delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.

“Tonight, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States,” Obama said.

Obama’s Iowa appearance, just after 9 p.m., had two intended effects. The setting of his commanding victory in the Iowa caucuses served as a strong jumping-off point for a more fully general-election campaign. And with questions looming about Obama’s ability to connect with certain white voters, after pummelings in West Virginia and Kentucky, the campaign wanted to showcase its support with the Iowa demographic.

According to The New York Times, since 1972, when modern exit polls first began, no Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white voters.

It appears Obama’s about to get a chance to deal with this in a general election.
The Associated Press projected Obama had 1,956 of the 2,026 pledged delegates and superdelegates needed to claim the nomination, compared with Clinton’s 1,776 total delegates. If Obama’s campaign doesn’t collapse in Montana, South Dakota (where he is expected to perform strongly) and Puerto Rico (where Clinton should do well) — he would then need only 25 more votes from superdelegates to secure the nomination. There are about 200 undeclared superdelegates.

For her part, Clinton has said she will complete the schedule of primary contests. With three months until the Democratic National Convention in Denver, a strong-finishing Clinton, would be well-positioned should unforeseen drama visit the Obama campaign and prompt superdelegates to reconsider. But her campaign is in something of a Hail Mary mode.

Obama’s Des Moines speech contained no new policy proposals and largely fed soaring rhetoric, much of it predictable, to the faithful, thousands of whom arrived hours before the speech. Many had heard Obama speak many times in smaller settings only months before.

The Illinois senator reached out with conciliatory language for the all-but-vanquished Clinton, a New York senator.

“The road here has been long, and that is partly because we’ve traveled it with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office,” Obama said. “In her 35 years of public service, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people, and tonight I congratulate her on her victory in Kentucky. We have had our disagreements during this campaign, but we all admire her courage, her commitment and her perseverance. No matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and yours will come of age.”

Then Obama quickly turned his sights on the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“This year’s Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won,” Obama said. “The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans that once bothered Senator McCain’s conscience are now his only economic policy.”

In recent days McCain and Bush have challenged Obama’s plans to use more diplomacy and negotiation in foreign policy.

“The Bush Iraq policy that asks everything of our troops and nothing of Iraqi politicians is John McCain’s policy too, and so is the fear of tough and aggressive diplomacy that has left this country more isolated and less secure than at any time in recent history,” Obama said.

He also signaled that he would seek to portray McCain, popularly perceived as a Maverick reformer, as more of a creature of Washington.

“The lobbyists who ruled George Bush’s Washington are now running John McCain’s campaign, and they actually had the nerve to say that the American people won’t care about this,” Obama said.

(Photo: Barack Obama brought his presidential campaign back to its beginnings with an appearance in Des Moines Tuesday night to announce what the numbers show: he has the delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president.)

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