Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination tonight, becoming the first black candidate to lead a major party into a campaign for the White House.
Vanquished rival Hillary Rodham Clinton swiftly signalled an interest in joining the race as running mate.
Obama arranged a victory celebration at the site of this summer’s Republican National Convention in St Paul, Minnesota – an in-your-face gesture to Senator John McCain, who will be his Republican opponent in the race to become America’s 44th president.
The 46-year-old Obama outlasted Clinton in a campaign that sparked record turnouts in primary after primary, yet exposed deep racial and gender divisions within the Democratic party.
In a campaign of surprises, Clinton’s comments about joining the ticket rated high.
According to one participant in a conference call among Clinton and members of the New York congressional delegation, Representative Lydia Velasquez said she believed the best way for Obama to win over Hispanics and members of other key voting blocs would be to take the former first lady as his running mate.
“I am open to it,” Clinton replied, if it would help the party’s prospects in November, said the participant.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Georgia, former US President Jimmy Carter said he would endorse Obama after the polls closed on the final primaries.
South Dakota and Montana held the last primaries today.
Carter said: “The fact is the Obama people already know they have my vote when the polls close tonight.”
The former president, a superdelegate, has remained officially neutral in the race but has offered high praise to Obama. Superdelegates are party officials and elected officials who can vote as they choose at the nominating convention.
Carter has noted that his children, grandchildren and their spouses back the Illinois Senator.