Obama Becomes First Black Democratic Presidential Nominee

The third black senator since Reconstruction beats Clinton for nomination.

ByABC News
June 2, 2008, 12:36 PM

June 3, 2008— -- After a bruising battle, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has won enough delegates to clinch the Democratic Party's presidential nomination becoming the first African-American major party presidential candidate in the nation's history.

But the candidate emerges battered after a bitter, five-month fight against Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who was vying to become the party's first female presidential nominee and was once considered the likely nominee.

Delivering soaring speeches tied to a popular message of hope and change, Obama's insurgent candidacy inspired record-breaking campaign contributions, record turnout by black voters, and wide support from independents, liberals, young voters, and high-income, better-educated Democrats.

Although he won the majority of primary contests -- 33 to Clinton's 20, not including Michigan and Florida -- the Illinois senator struggled to win the support of white, blue-collar voters, older voters and Hispanic voters.

The issue of race cropped up again and again for the man seeking to become the nation's first black president.

When tapes of Obama's longtime pastor excoriating America surfaced, the Illinois senator distanced himself from his pastor, and ultimately from his Chicago church, delivering a widely applauded speech on race and religion.

If Obama is elected president, he will be, at 47, among the youngest presidents in U.S. history. His Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would be the oldest presidential candidate to win a first term in office at age 72.

No stranger to record books, Obama, became the fifth African-American senator in U.S. history and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

Born to a white, American mother and a black, Kenyan father, Obama has spoken openly of his struggle to find acceptance in the black community.

First living in Hawaii, Obama's family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, when he was 6, where he lived for a time with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. He has credited his upbringing for making him sensitive to America's flagging image abroad.

Attending Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer, a constitutional law professor, and a lawyer in Chicago before becoming a senator in the Illinois state Senate in 1996.

Over his eight years in the Illinois Capitol, Obama earned a reputation as a consistently liberal senator who reflected the views of voters in his Chicago district. He also developed a reputation as someone willing to reach across the aisle to build consensus.

Obama's 2004 bid for the Senate was filled with dramatic turns in his favor.

In a crowded Democratic field, Obama emerged with the Democratic nomination after allegations of domestic abuse and a well organized Obama effort felled his opponent.

Jack Ryan, the Republican nominee, left the race after a court ordered divorce records be released, leaving Obama unopposed until former presidential candidate and conservative radio commentator Alan Keyes, who lived in Maryland, took Ryan's place.

Obama won in a landslide.

Many Americans -- indeed, many Democrats -- had never heard of the charismatic politician before he delivered a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July 2004.

He called on Americans to leave behind party polarization, saying, "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."

The speech instantly made Obama a star, with political pundits suddenly predicting the state senator who had not yet been elected to the U.S. Senate might someday be positioned for a presidential run.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said at the time that during a meeting with President Bush in February of 2004, the Congresswoman wore an Obama button on her coat.

"I don't know him," Bush said, according to Schakowsky.

"Oh, you will, Mr. President," she responded.

Obama's newfound stardom and oratory skills made him a draw at political events and fundraisers across the country, able to attract media attention and raise money for other Democrats.

Expanding on his speech, Obama's 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope:Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream," rocketed up The New York Times best-seller list.

Even his candid admission that he used cocaine and smoked pot in high school and college , in his first book, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," did little to tarnish his image as an up-and-coming political phenomenon.

Announcing his presidential bid in February 2007 on the steps of the Illinois state legislature where Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech condemning slavery and calling for the United States to unite, Obama said that as president he would heal a divided nation.