On the final day of a marathon campaign,secured the support of enough delegates to the Democratic National Convention to lay claim to the mantle of presumptive nominee.
"I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States of America," Obama declared before a crowd of cheering thousands in St. Paul, Minnesota. (
"America, this is our moment," the 46-year-old senator and one-time community organizer said in his first appearance as the Democratic nominee-in-waiting. "This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past."
Obama sang the praises of, who has been his chief rival for the nomination for over a year.
"Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign," he said. "She has made history not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she is a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight."
Obama called Clinton at 11:06 p.m. EDT Tuesday night to congratulate her on her South Dakota victory and left a message asking her to call him back, reports CBS News reporter Maria Gavrilovic. They spoke later and Obama offered to meet with Clinton "when it makes sense for her." Clinton said she was "sure that will happen" and thanked him for the call.
Through a combination of delegates won in primary and caucus contests and public endorsements from unpledged superdelegates, Obama has accumulated 2,154 delegates, more than the 2,118 needed for the nomination. (Click here for the full state-by-state tally.)
Even so, Clinton won the Democratic primary in South Dakota, with 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Obama. Obama won in Montana - with virtually all precincts reporting, he had 57 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Clinton.
"This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight," Clinton said as the crowd roared its approval. (
"I am committed to uniting our party so we move forward stronger and more ready than ever to take back the White House this November," Clinton said.
A top Clinton adviser told CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod that when Clinton decides to get out of race, she'll call her supporters directly to try to ensure that they fall in line behind Obama.
In becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama achieves the historic milestone of becoming the first black candidate to become a major party presidential nominee.
His victory sets up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen.of Arizona, a race between a first-term Senate opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.
"It's fitting that this hard-fought, historic campaign came down to the final hours of the final day," said CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. "Obama will have one night to bask in his victory and Clinton perhaps a few days to wind down her campaign. But the celebration will be short-lived as the attention of the Democratic Party will need to quickly shift to reconciliation and the general election against John McCain."
Both men seemed eager to begin on Tuesday.
McCain spoke first, in New Orleans,of voting "to deny funds to the soldiers who have done a brilliant and brave job" in Iraq. It was a reference to 2007 legislation to pay for the Iraq war, a measure Obama opposed citing the lack of a timetable for withdrawing troops. (
McCain agreed with Obama that the presidential race would focus on change. "But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward," he said.
As for his general election rival, Obama said, "It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year."
"It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs...And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave young men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians," Obama added.
In a symbolic move, Obama spoke in the same hall - filled to capacity - where McCain will accept the Republican nomination at his party's convention in September.
Obama, a first-term senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage four years ago, defeated Clinton, the former first lady and one-time campaign front-runner, in a 17-month marathon for the Democratic nomination.
According to exit polls, most South Dakota Democratic voters (55 percent) think the length of the primary campaign has energized the party, while 39 percent say it has divided it. Fifty-five percent said Obama should pick Clinton as his vice president if he is the nominee.
Less than half (45 percent) of Clinton voters in South Dakota and Montana said they would be satisfied with Obama as the Democratic Party's nominee, while 53 percent in South Dakota and 52 percent in Montana would be dissatisfied. Most Obama voters (54 percent) in South Dakota would be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee, while 45 percent would not. But in Montana, only 48 percent of Obama voters would be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee.
Sixty-one percent of South Dakota Clinton voters and 60 percent in Montana say they would vote for Obama in a general election, while 16 percent in South Dakota and 25 percent in Montana would vote for McCain. If Clinton were the nominee, 73 percent of South Dakota Obama voters and 65 percent of Montana Obama voters would back her, while 13 percent of Obama backers in South Dakota and 20 percent in Montana say they would support McCain.
Most Democrats in both states (60 percent in South Dakota and 67 percent in Montana) say that Obama's decision to leave Trinity Church was not important in their vote, while 37 percent in South Dakota and 28 percent in Montana say it was important.
Clinton has told congressional colleagues she would be open to becoming Obama's vice presidential nominee, saying she would consider it if it would help Democrats win the White House.
Clinton made the comment on a conference call with other New York lawmakers Tuesday, according a participant on the call.
The senator's remarks came in response to a question from Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez who said she believed the best way for Obama to win over key voting blocs, including Hispanics, would be for him to choose Clinton as his running mate.
"I am open to it," Clinton replied, if it would help the party's prospects in November.