Sen. Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination and his place in the history books last night by becoming the first African-American to win a major party's bid for the White House.
The Illinois senator wrapped up the grueling battle for the Democratic Party's nomination before the votes were even counted Tuesday in the last two Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota.
"This is our moment. This is our time," Obama, who got a thumbs-up from his wife Michelle before she left the podium, told 30,000 thrilled supporters in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday night.
Obama surpassed the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch his party's nomination, ending a five-month-long slugfest with Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Obama, 46, went on to easily win Montana by a margin of 57 percent to Clinton's 42 percent. But Clinton snatched one last upset victory in South Dakota, with a 55-44 percent win.
Obama picked up enough delegates from those states to pad his margin of victory and a flood of superdelegates rallied to his side.
Obama claimed the Democratic nomination in the same St. Paul arena in which Sen. John McCain will accept the Republican nomination in early September.
"Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Because of you, tonight I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States," Obama told his cheering supporters.
He graciously praised Clinton, despite the sometimes bitter exchanges the two had during the campaign.
"Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign, not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight," Obama said.
"Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete" with her, he said.
The candidates played phone tag until they were finally able to speak just after midnight.
Obama reiterated his invitation for a conversation and Clinton agreed, but no specific plans were made for a time or place for such a meeting.
Both Democrats are scheduled to be in Washington the day after the last primary contests, but there was no public schedule for them to meet.
Obama must now turn and prepare to take on McCain, but before he can do that, or even bask in the enormity of his historical accomplishment, he must find a way to make peace with Clinton and her many ardent supporters.
In her final primary night speech, Clinton refused to concede the race.
"This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight," she told supporters in New York.
"In the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way," she said as supporters chanted "Denver, Denver!" pointing to the party's convention in late August.
She also asked the question that so many political observers have been wondering.
"I understand a lot of people are asking what does Hillary want? What does she want?" Clinton asked.