Obama Clinches Nomination; Clinton Plots Next Step The race for the Democratic presidential nomination will go down in the history books. Barack Obama added another chapter Tuesday by securing enough delegates to claim the party's presidential nomination. Still, Hillary Clinton hasn't conceded defeat. NPR's Don Gonyea and David Greene reflect on the primaries and look ahead.
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Obama Clinches Nomination; Clinton Plots Next Step

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Obama Clinches Nomination; Clinton Plots Next Step

Obama Clinches Nomination; Clinton Plots Next Step

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is in Pakistan. I'm Renee Montagne coming to you this morning from a long five months since the night the Iowa caucuses shook up American politics. The new voice on the scene that night belonged to Barack Obama, and last night more than 50 primaries and caucuses later, that new voice had this to say...

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presumptive Presidential Nominee): Tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for the president of the United States of America.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MONTAGNE: It was by any measure a memorable moment in American politics as the first African-American nominated for president by either major party claimed his prize. But on the same occasion the first woman candidate to come very close to either party's nomination was keeping her options open.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): So many people said this race was over five months ago in Iowa, but we had faith in each other. And you brought me back in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday and in Ohio and in Pennsylvania and Texas and Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico and South Dakota.

MONTAGNE: Joining us now are two of the NPR reporters who have been covering the Democratic campaign all the way through, and will continue to cover this election to its end: Don Gonyea with Barack Obama; David Greene with Hillary Clinton. And good morning to both of you.

DAVID GREENE: Good morning, Renee.

DON GONYEA: Good morning. What day is it?

MONTAGNE: A long one, a long one, Don. And let's start with you. The scene at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota last night.

GONYEA: Well, it was another one of those big kind of Obama events that we've seen him do so many times this primary season. But this one had a different feel. I mean, obviously it had that extra bit of energy; we had that extra dose of history mixed in. The first-ever African-American claiming such a prize.

And for Senator Obama, you know, he clearly took a moment to reflect. He had this to say before he jumped into his prepared text...

Sen. OBAMA: Thank you to my grandmother who helped raise me, and is sitting in Hawaii somewhere right now because she can't travel, but who poured everything she had into me. And who helped to make me the man I am today, tonight is for her.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: And you can tell there, it was an emotional moment for him, and I can tell you it was an emotional moment for a lot of people in that crowd.

MONTAGNE: A thousand miles and a world away, really, at Baruch College in New York City, you were there, David.

GREENE: Totally different scene. And you know, a lot of Senator Clinton's staff from around the country had been flown in to be part of this night. A real sense of closure, since it was the end of the primary season. But you could also sense this reality setting in. People were just trying to find something to smile and cheer about. And as we heard Hillary Clinton at the top, she mentioned that she felt South Dakota had brought her back again. But you really felt like people were beginning to accept the reality at least.

MONTAGNE: Well, one thing you would expect of someone, and in this case Barack Obama, claiming the nomination, is a lot of tribute to the other candidates.

GREENE: Exactly. It's a time-honored tradition on the campaign trail - you pay tribute to those you have just vanquished. And Senator Obama looked at that group of Democrats who had shared the stage with him in so many debates and he called them the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office.

Sen. OBAMA: I've learned from them as friends, as public servants and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better, they are leaders of this party and leaders that America will turn to for years to come. And that is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else: Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign.

(Soundbite of applause)

MONTAGNE: Well, of course, Hillary Clinton, that was the big name if you're talking about possibly vanquished opponents here. David, one man's magic number may not be enough to convince everyone. Is she out of the race or is she not?

GREENE: She's not as of now, and there was no mention last night of a magic number, not even a recognition that Barack Obama had crossed some sort of threshold. And it gave the night this feeling of almost an alternate universe. All these headlines already coming out: Obama Ready to go up against McCain in a general election. But Clinton's campaign putting out new schedules, going through all the motions that you would expect from a campaign that's just going into another day.

And you know, I think what we hear is that Hillary Clinton is going to reach out to some of these superdelegates and try to keep making her case. But one adviser said taking a few days or a little time is also about letting these millions of people accept the reality slowly. These people have been coming to her events, begging her not to quit. I want to play you a bit from a 61-year-old who came to the event last night in his wheelchair. This is a bit from a man named Walter Coppage I met.

Mr. WALTER COPPAGE: She's not the type of person that gives up. The Clintons do not give up. They will rock and roll. If you know what I'm talking about. They will rock and roll until the end, and for her to give up tonight, well then that's not Hillary, because Hillary - I believe Hillary will never give up.

GREENE: And at one point, Renee, a lot of her supporters were chanting Denver, Denver, of course calling on her to take this thing all the way to the convention, no matter what the delegate count says.

MONTAGNE: Well, of course the question this morning is will Hillary Clinton push to stay on as number two on the ticket, which came up yesterday.

GREENE: It did, and what we know is she had a conversation with some New York lawmakers where one raised the subject of a ticket, and she said that if that's what it takes to bring the party together, it's something that she would be open to. Now, she didn't bring it up at her event last night, but she did talk about what her plans are in the next day or so, and let's give another listen here.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): And in the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way.

GREENE: And so if she didn't bring it up in the speech, she did mention it and at least dangle the idea out there earlier in the day, but of course this is assuming that Barack Obama would even make such an offer.

MONTAGNE: And Don, you might know a little more, though. You were on the Obama plane, and what were they saying on this subject?

DON GONYEA: They say there have been no such talks. They had no comment on reports that she says she's interested in the number two job. They say there's no long list; there's not a short list at this point as to who Senator Obama will consider.

MONTAGNE: And Barack Obama, after all his tributes to his former opponents, he really went after John McCain last night.

GONYEA: He did, and he's been talking about McCain for weeks now, but last night there was this particularly pointed barb. First Obama spoke of McCain's military record, saying McCain had served the country heroically.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): We are the servants of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even as he chooses to deny mine.

GONYEA: He's speaking, of course, of the dismissive tone McCain has used when talking about Obama's resume in recent weeks. That statement last night shows they're ready to put the primaries behind them and join in the fall fight.

MONTAGNE: At any rate, we have this much of a moment of finality. There are no more primaries or caucuses coming up. What stands out as a memory for each of you when you think back on the last five months?

GONYEA: For me, it's two things. It's those huge crowds Obama drew, and not just in places where Democrats do well. It was in places like Boise, Idaho. But the other thing was that speech back in March on the subject of race. You know, after the controversy of Reverend Wright's comments, here was Obama, an African-American, a candidate who didn't really talk about race, delivering this complicated, long, nuanced speech on the topic. It was an important moment in the campaign.

GREENE: You know, Renee, a few weeks ago the Clinton campaign allowed me to come up and follow Hillary Clinton around the rope line, as she was finishing an event, to get a sense for what she's hearing from people when she's done speaking at these sorts of rallies, and there were a lot of people, mostly women, many of them older, just some of them in tears, just saying don't quit, and the passion for her, you just get the sense that if she's not going to go on, if she's not going to be on the ticket, it's going to be hard for some people to say goodbye.

MONTAGNE: Just a final quick word about today. Both candidates are going to be in Washington, D.C. Any chance of a sit-down?

GONYEA: The Obama campaign says they're ready to sit down but no schedule yet.

GREENE: And the Clinton campaign says the two of them spoke on the phone last night, but nothing on her schedule to suggest they're going to get a sit-down.

MONTAGNE: Thank you both for sitting down with us this morning. NPR's David Greene, covering the Hillary Clinton campaign; NPR's Don Gonyea, covering the campaign of Barack Obama.

GONYEA: Always a pleasure.

GREENE: Pleasure, Renee.

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