In sealing nomination, Obama makes history
He's the first African-American to head presidential ticket of a major party, winning Democrats' long war of attrition.
(Page 3 of 3)
Clinton and Obama differed little on most policy issues. But Obama's early opposition to the war in Iraq – and Clinton's refusal to apologize for her vote to authorize the use of force there – gave him an edge with the party's Internet-savvy liberal wing. His message of unity and hope, too, seemed more attuned to the zeitgeist than Clinton's partisan belligerence.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But Iowa was no knockout. A dogged campaigner, Clinton in short order won New Hampshire and Nevada. The next five months came to resemble a world championship boxing match, with the candidates trading victories across the electoral map. Clinton won the biggest states, New York and California.
But this proved to be a war of attrition, not shock and awe. Obama outmaneuvered her through the slow accretion of delegates in Midwestern and Plains states long overlooked by the Democratic Party.
Bill Clinton, popular with blacks during his presidency, further damaged his wife's candidacy with remarks in South Carolina seen by some as racially divisive. Soon Obama was winning more than 80 percent of the black vote, a bloc that propelled him to victory across a band of Southern states.
The assumption that Clinton would seal the nomination with a crushing set of victories on Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, never bore out, leaving her campaign flat-flooted and short on cash. Obama won the popular vote in 13 contests that day, to Clinton's 10. He went on to win the next 11 contests, netting more than 200 delegates and a lead that Clinton would never overcome.
Not even the flap over Obama's former minister could stop his momentum. By last month, even after her decisive victory in the swing state of Pennsylvania, Clinton had lost her lead among superdelegates – the elected officials and party leaders not bound by the popular vote in their home states.
Nominations are won on delegates. But in her speech to supporters Tuesday night, Clinton clung to the assertion – disputed by her rival – that she leads in the national popular vote. Her calculation includes the results in Michigan, where Obama's name did not appear on the ballot, and excludes four caucuses – in Iowa, Nevada, Washington, and Maine – where popular vote totals were not released.
Despite the divisions the race highlighted, Obama made bedfellows of groups not always drawn to the same ticket: the young liberals and professionals who had leaned in the past toward the likes of Bill Bradley and Howard Dean; unaffiliated independents; and blacks, who have tended toward candidates, like Bill Clinton, seen as more in step with the working class.