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Obama poised to win; Clinton readying exit
Updated: 2008-06-04 00:08

WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama stood poised to claim his place in history as the first black presidential nominee of a major US party after a pair of primaries on Tuesday, as Hillary Rodham Clinton prepared to effectively end her campaign.

Two Clinton aides told The Associated Press that for all intents and purposes her campaign is over once Obama clinches the nomination. He could do so Tuesday night, or even sooner, as voters in Montana and South Dakota bring his grueling, months-long, contest with Clinton to a close and as party superdelegates - top officials and lawmakers free to vote as they chose - fall in line behind him.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and her husband, former President Bill Clinton react to supporters during a rally in Sioux Falls, S.D., June 2, 2008. [Agencies]

Increasingly, they have swung behind Obama, with the first-term Illinois senator nabbing the support of two more superdelegates Tuesday. He headed into the twin primaries just 40 delegates shy of the 2,118 needed to secure the party's White House nod.

Clinton aides said the New York senator will acknowledge that Obama has the necessary delegates once he is over the top in terms of the delegate count. But in her speech in New York, she planned to stop short of formally suspending or ending her campaign. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge her plans.

Clinton was at home in Chappaqua, New York, with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and was placing calls to friends and supporters.

Her campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe suggested as much earlier in the day, saying in a television interview that once Obama gets the majority of convention delegates, "I think Hillary Clinton will congratulate him and call him the nominee."

Top party officials have been pushing for an end to a nomination battle that shattered fundraising and voter turnout records, but also exposed racial and gender divisions within the Democratic Party that threatened to undermine its chances in the November election against Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain.

His lead overwhelming, Obama edging closer to the nomination -- and a showdown with McCain -- with some choreography by the superdelegates. The party insiders were lining up behind Obama at a rate that could seal the nomination even before the results of the day's two races.

Clinton, once seen as a sure bet in her historic quest to become the first female president, was still pressing the superdelegates to support her fading candidacy. But McAuliffe indicated she was not inclined to drag out a dispute over delegates from the unsanctioned Michigan primary despite feeling shortchanged by a weekend compromise by the party's rules committee that she could still appeal to a higher level.

"I don't think she's going to go to the credentials committee," he said on NBC's "Today" show. Taking the matter to that committee would essentially extend the dispute into the convention and deny Democrats the unity they sorely want to achieve against Republican John McCain.

Seeing the cards fall into place for his November rival, McCain planned a prime time speech Tuesday night in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Louisiana, in what is essentially a kickoff of the fall campaign.

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