Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) emerged the winner of a competitive, grueling Democratic presidential primary contest on June 3 when he finally secured the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch his party’s nomination. The first-term national legislator, age 47, is the first African American ever to lead a major party ticket. He will face Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee,
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), his rival for 18 months and the first woman to mount a serious bid for the presidency, conceded to him in a highly anticipated speech to an estimated 10,000 people gathered on June 7 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. She thanked her supporters, particularly older women and the working class, announced the suspension of her campaign, and urged the nearly 18 million people who voted for her in the primaries to throw their support behind Senator Obama.
“I endorse him and throw my full support behind him,” Clinton said about Obama. “And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me,” she implored.
Some Democratic leaders have expressed concern that Clinton’s most loyal supporters could refuse to vote for Obama in the general election, and vote instead for McCain, a Republican of independent spirit. With little policy distinctions between Clinton and Obama, the primary season largely became a contest of personalities. In contrast to the 60-year-old, Clinton, Obama’s coalition is described as an unusual, but not contradictory, mix of young people, African Americans and liberal professionals.
Also notably during her speech on June 7, Clinton specifically mentioned “gay” people among those she thanked on June 7, and she later referenced “gay rights” when she outlined her vision for equality in the United States. She made reference to the struggles of women against sexism, and her own effort to break the highest glass ceiling with her own historic bid for the presidency.
In the coming months, Clinton is expected to campaign for Obama and to help with fundraising. Her campaign debt is estimated to run $30 million.
Speculation ensues as to whether Obama might select Clinton as his running mate in a vice presidential position. Early in June, she revealed to fellow New York lawmakers that she would be open to the possibility, but she quickly tempered a public relations effort from her camp to pressure Obama into offering her the job just days after he secured the nomination.
If Obama does not invite Clinton to join him on the ticket, other political options for her could include a position in his potential cabinet, perhaps in a role to lead health care reform or a more high-profile position in the U.S. Senate, although her lack of seniority there seems to make that unlikely. Other possibilities could include a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, or a run for governor of New York.