Obama on Iowa Return, ‘a Terrific Way to Bring Things Full Circle’

May 18, 2008 7:59pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: Sen. Barack Obama’s symbolic return to Iowa on Tuesday night, the night of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries — was questioned today during a press availability in Milwaukie, Ore.

Obama told reporters that he decided to return to the early-contest state because, "We thought it was a terrific way to kind of bring things full circle. We still have some contests left, but if Kentucky and Oregon go as we hope, then we think we will have a majority of pledged delegates at that point, and that’s a pretty significant mark."

The Obama campaign has walked a fine line, playing up the significance of the primaries Tuesday night in crossing the delegate majority mark but careful not to insinuate they are declaring victory.

"It doesn’t mean we declare victory, because I won’t be the nominee until we have enough, a combination of both pledged delegates and superdelegates to hit the mark," Obama said. "But what it does mean is that voters have given us the majority of delegates that they can assign. And obviously that is what this primary and caucus process is about."

Two weeks ago Obama told Brian Williams that May 20 is an important day.

"If at that point we have the majority of pledged delegates, which is possible, then I think we can make a pretty strong claim that we’ve got the most runs and it’s the ninth inning and we’ve won," he said.

In Oregon on Tuesday, Obama pushed back against the notion that his comments were contradictory — denying that he intended to insinuate he would declare victory.

"I don’t think there is anything contradictory on this," he said. "What we have consistently said is that we will have the majority of pledged delegates at that point and obviously we’re going to make the argument to any superdelegates remaining that we should be the nominee. But until those pledged delegates actually commit to us, we won’t have achieved that number yet."

There are three more contests to vote after Tuesday’s primaries, with the last contest on June 3.

At a rally in Portland later in the day with an estimated audience of 75,000 people, the largest crowd to date at an Obama event, Obama spoke of the long primary season and of his Democratic opponent — in the past tense.

"Sen. Clinton and I have had a terrific contest," he said. "She has been a formidable candidate, she has been smart and tough and determined and she has worked as hard as she can. And she has run an extraordinary campaign."

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