Democrats Near End of Wild Primary Run

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigned in South Dakota on the eve of Tuesday's primaries there and in Montana — the final Democratic contests of the season. Meanwhile, Sen. Barack Obama spent Monday campaigning in the general-election swing state of Michigan, as he closed in on the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, Obama Race to Finish, Woo Superdelegates

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigns in South Dakota.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton greets supporters during a campaign stop at Tally's Restaurant in Rapid City, S.D. on Monday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama campaigns in Michigan.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands during a town hall meeting at Troy High School in Michigan on Monday. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats in South Dakota and Montana are having their say today in the nomination battle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The contests will award 31 delegates — not enough to give either the nomination.

Instead, the nomination is expected to be decided by the remaining undecided superdelegates. Obama says he thinks uncommitted superdelegates will endorse him in big numbers soon after today's voting.

One superdelegate who won't wait that long is House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (SC), who is expected to officially endorse Barrack Obama today.

On the eve of the final Democratic contests of the season, Clinton campaigned in South Dakota.

"I'm just very grateful we kept this campaign going until South Dakota," Clinton told patrons at Tally's Restaurant in Rapid City, S.D., on Monday. "What South Dakota decides tomorrow will have a big influence in what people think going forward."

Meanwhile, Obama spent Monday campaigning in the general-election swing state of Michigan, looking ahead to a possible race against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Obama picked up at least five superdelegates on Monday, including Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, and Virginia's Jerome Wiley Segovia, a Democratic National Committee member.

As of Monday, Obama was 44 delegates shy of the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama is trying to line up the final superdelegates he needs to wrap up the nomination by Tuesday night.

"He apparently is telling people that he has the numbers, and that's what's going to happen, at which point it would become moot what the rest of us do," said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, one of the roughly 200 superdelegates under pressure to take a side.

At campaign stops in Michigan, Obama sounded very much as if he were already the nominee, offering assurances that he could unite a Democratic Party fractured by a prolonged and bitter primary battle. He told a town hall-style meeting that he and Clinton will be "working together in November." He did not elaborate.

Obama also turned his attention to the ailing U.S. economy. He said there would be a clear choice between his plans and McCain's, and that the GOP candidate would "double down" on President Bush's economic plan, which he said contributed to the nation's current economic problems.

Although Obama remains ahead in the delegate count, the Clinton camp contends that she is ahead in the popular vote — a debatable claim, given that it relies on the outcomes of the contests in Michigan and Florida.

Both states were originally stripped of their delegates as punishment for moving up the date of their primaries. On Saturday, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee reinstated the delegates but gave them each only half a vote at the national convention. None of the Democratic candidates campaigned in either state, and Obama received no votes in Michigan, because he removed his name from the ballot there.

Clinton also continues to present herself as better able to confront McCain in the fall. Asked Monday on CBS' The Early Show if the New York senator would take her claim to the nomination all the way to the convention, campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said again that the Clinton camp "would keep all of their options open."

Clinton, who is under increasing pressure to drop out of the race, will return to New York City on Tuesday night to deliver her post-primary speech — a rare departure from the campaign trail. Staffers who have worked for her on the ground in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana have been invited to attend the event or go home for further instructions, campaign aides said. Clinton had no other events Tuesday.

From NPR staff reports and the Associated Press

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