Obama gains key support
Five superdelegates put candidate in reach of Democratic nomination
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama won new endorsements yesterday from five Democratic superdelegates, putting him within reach of the party’s presidential nomination as voters cast ballots today in two final primaries in Montana and South Dakota.
But even as the Illinois senator moved within a few dozen delegates of becoming the presumed Democratic nominee, there were conflicting signs about whether Hillary Clinton planned to concede defeat or continue her campaign.
During a speech in Milbank, S.D., former president Bill Clinton hinted that his wife’s White House bid was drawing to a close.
“I want to say also that this may be the last day I’m ever involved in a campaign of this kind,” Bill Clinton said.
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, sounded a similar note of resignation.
“It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee,” Vilsack said. “After Tuesday’s contests, she needs to acknowledge that he’s going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him.”
Clinton announced plans to deliver a speech celebrating the end of the primary campaign at home in New York. Some members of her advance team were given notice they could either join her in New York or go home, because no further campaign travel had been planned beyond the final primaries.
Harold Ickes, a senior Clinton strategist, denied the notices were evidence the former first lady was preparing to end her White House bid.
“We are telling people to stand down at this point. We are not yet in general election mode. We are focused on winning these primaries,” Ickes told MSNBC.
The sense of inevitability about Obama’s victory, however, was reinforced yesterday as Democratic superdelegates from Florida, Michigan, Connecticut and Virginia declared support for Obama.
In all, he won five new endorsements compared to two for Clinton, despite her lopsided victory Sunday in Puerto Rico’s presidential primary.
Obama is now just 42 delegates shy of reaching the magic number of 2,118 needed to win the Democratic race. Recent polls have shown Obama leading in Montana and in a tight race with Clinton in South Dakota, worth a combined 31 pledged delegates.
If Obama wins only half of the delegates from those states, he will need just two dozen of the remaining 195 undecided superdelegates to go over the top.
Campaigning yesterday in Michigan, Obama was also speaking of Clinton’s campaign in the past tense. “Senator Clinton has run an outstanding race. She is an outstanding public servant, and she and I will be working together in November,” Obama said.
Obama said he was prepared to meet with Clinton “at a time and place of her choosing” to discuss a possible role in the general election campaign.
Clinton threatened on the weekend to challenge a decision by the Democratic National Committee to award Obama 59 delegates from Michigan’s disputed primary, even though he was not on the ballot.
But there was little of that angry rhetoric yesterday as speculation grew about when, and how, Clinton might end her campaign.