Obama Prepares to Declare Victory

By Ed O'Keefe

Jun 3, 2008 1:20pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: Barack Obama is still putting the finishing touches on his St. Paul speech — and working on his jump shot — in preparation for declaring victory in the tightly contested Democratic nomination.

Obama aides feel that there is a good chance that he will reach the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

If he reaches that number tonight, "(Sen.) Obama will walk onstage tonight as the nominee," an aide to the Senator told ABC News.

His speech tonight, delivered at the same Minneapolis arena where the Republicans are holding their convention this Fall, will be a look ahead centered on "a new phase, a new beginning" of the campaign and make an appeal for Democratic party unity.

Obama’s speech writer, Jon Favreau, wrote the text but, according to this campaign aide, Obama had a large part of the formulation of the tone and language.

As is his tradition, Obama, D-Ill., is playing basketball in Chicago on election day — this time as votes are being cast in the final two primary states of South Dakota and Montana.

Obama, wearing workout clothes and carrying a fruit smoothie, walked out of the East Side club just before Noon Central time.

When asked about his mood, Obama said, "I’m doing fine but I thought this was off limits, basketball.  I’m doing all right."

But as Sen. Obama prepares to turn his sights on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican nominee, the Clinton camp continues their fight.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will not concede defeat tonight or end her attempt to make history by becoming the first female presidential nominee.

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe rushed onto CNN this morning to deny an Associated Press report that Clinton would concede tonight after polls closed in the final two Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota.

McAuliffe called the report "100 percent incorrect."

"The race goes on," McAuliffe insisted.

Moments later the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, "The AP story is incorrect. Senator Clinton will not concede the nomination this evening."

"She is in this race until we have a nominee," a senior Clinton official told ABC News, "We do not expect there to be one tonight."

According to an ABC News estimate, Obama is only 31.5 delegates away from clinching the 2,118 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

"He will declare victory tonight in a moment of history," ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos told "Good Morning America."

Obama is expected to speak shortly after 10 p.m. ET while the votes are still being counted in Montana and South Dakota, ending a grueling campaign that has set records for voter turnout all across the country.

Clinton, D-N.Y., will spend primary day at her New York home in Chappaqua and plans to give a speech in New York Tuesday night — the first time the candidate has not spent a primary night in a contested or about to be contested state.

ABC News’ Eloise Harper and Kate Snow contributed to this report.

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