Sen. Barack Obama last night said he had reached a major milestone toward the Democratic presidential nomination, shortly after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton scored a big win in Kentucky and pledged to fight on until “every vote is cast.”
“Tonight … with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president,” Mr. Obama said.
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“We have to get this right,” she said. “We have to select a nominee who is best positioned to win in November.”
Mr. Obama last night called his rival “one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office.”
“We all admire her courage, her commitment and her perseverance,” he said. “No matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age and for that we are grateful to her.”
His praise for Mrs. Clinton drew wild cheers, and he added: “While our primary has been long and hard-fought, the hardest and most important part of our journey still lies ahead.” He spent the remainder of his speech blasting Republicans.
The former first lady echoed that she and Mr. Obama were engaged in “one of the closest races” in history and repeated her insistence that she is winning the popular vote — a sentiment that is true only by discounting Mr. Obama’s caucus victories and by including totals from Florida and Michigan. Both states have been disqualified under Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules.
“I’m more determined than ever to see that every vote is cast and every ballot counted,” she said. “I commend Senator Obama and his supporters, and while we continue to go toe to toe for this nomination, we do see eye to eye when it comes to uniting our party to elect a Democratic president.”
Just three primaries remain in the nomination fight — Puerto Rico on June 1 and South Dakota and Montana on June 3.
Mr. Obama chose to speak in Iowa, which delivered his first victory on Jan. 3, to thank voters for helping him on his “unlikely journey.”
Mrs. Clinton told voters that she would be heading today to Florida to stand up for the millions who voted there.
“Neither Senator Obama nor I will have reached that magic number when the voting ends on June the third,” she said. At that point, “our party will have a tough choice to make [about] who is ready to lead our party at the top of our ticket.”
Some uncommitted superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders who will cast votes for their preferred candidate at the convention in August — seemed to agree with Mrs. Clinton’s position about the needed figure to reach the nomination yesterday.
Until someone reaches the actual delegates needed for the nomination, “Everything else is a sideshow,” said Bob Mulholland, an uncommitted superdelegate, DNC member and adviser to the California Democratic Party.
Federal Election Commission reports filed yesterday showed continued good news for Mr. Obama, who collected $31.3 million in April from more than 200,000 new donors. He had $37.3 million cash on hand to spend until the convention in late August.
Clinton aides said she raised $22 million.
Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona raised $18 million in April, and has $22 million cash on hand.
Also yesterday, Mr. McCain, who already has locked up his nomination, won 72 percent of the vote in Kentucky and 85 percent in Oregon based on early returns.
Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain sparred over U.S. policy toward Cuba yesterday.
Mr. McCain said he would keep the U.S. trade embargo until the communist island welcomes democracy. He said Mr. Obama’s stance “would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators,” prompting the Democrat to charge Mr. McCain was offering a continuation of President Bush’s policy “that has failed for decades.”
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