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'America, This Is Our Moment'

This story was written by Anna Ewart, Minnesota Daily

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared victory at a rally in St. Paul Tuesday night, effectively putting an end to the lengthy Democratic primary season.

After polls closed in South Dakota and Montana, Obama told a crowd of 17,000 people that he is now the Democratic presidential nominee.

"Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States," he said.

Crowds remained on their feet through the entire speech, cheering in support of the first black man to secure a major party's presidential nomination.

Although candidate Hillary Clinton did not concede the nomination on Tuesday, Associated Press delegate projections predict that Obama secured enough delegates to become the nominee.

Obama thanked Clinton for the tight race and her work in the Senate.

"I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton," Obama said.

The rally took place in a symbolic location, the Xcel Energy Center, which will host the Republican National Convention from Sept. 1-4.

That convention will bring an entirely different set of policies to the Xcel, but Obama said it's a debate he's looking forward to.

During a telephone press conference earlier Tuesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the rally was partially brought on by historically high voter turnout in Minnesota and that he welcomed Obama.

Although Pawlenty acknowledged that Obama is a great speaker, he said Republican candidate John McCain 's experience makes him the best choice for the job.

"Being able to read in an eloquent manner from a teleprompter is not a prerequisite to being a president of the United States," Pawlenty said.

He also said Obama does not represent traditional American values, and that McCain will pick up Clinton's votes this November because the Obama is too liberal.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a co-chairman in the Minnesota branch of the Obama campaign, said it was exciting that Obama chose to speak in Minnesota on a crucial day.

"Having Obama come to Minnesota on this special night says a lot about what role this state has played, including the University of Minnesota," Rybak said.

University business communications professor JoAnn Syverson introduced Obama at the rally.

"We deserve a president who will lead our country with politics of hope and humanity," Syverson said. "We deserve Barack Obama."

Obama beat Clinton in Minnesota's Super Tuesday caucuses by a 2-to-1 margin.

Several prominent Minnesota Democrats attended the St. Paul rally, including Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

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