RAY SUAREZ: Just hours after laying claim to the Democratic Party’s nomination, Barack Obama was on his way back to Washington to begin the general election campaign in earnest.
His first order of business was to praise his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Following my speech, I know that you are going to have the great pleasure of hearing from an extraordinary candidate and an extraordinary public servant. And I want to publicly acknowledge Hillary Clinton for the outstanding race that she has run.
RAY SUAREZ: Obama addressed the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. The senator also used the speech to fire back at John McCain, who addressed the conference Monday. McCain had rebuked Obama for saying he’d meet with rogue leaders as president.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: He criticizes my willingness to use strong diplomacy, but offers only an alternative reality, one where the war in Iraq has somehow put Iran on its heels.
The truth is the opposite: Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium, and it has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats towards Israel have increased.
Those are the facts, and they cannot be denied. And I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure.
RAY SUAREZ: Speaking just minutes after her primary rival, Clinton made no mention of any plans to concede the nomination, despite a growing number of party members publicly declaring their support for Obama.
Instead, Clinton talked up her strong support of Israel and that of her Democratic rival.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: My support for Israel does not come recently or lightly. I know it is right in my head, in my heart, and in my gut.
And that is exactly the commitment we need in our next president, a Democratic president, because the Democratic Party’s strong commitment for the state of Israel since the days of Harry Truman endures today. It is one of our party’s most cherished values, and it will continue under the next Democratic president.
I know Senator Obama understands what it is at stake here. It has been an honor to contest these primaries with him. It is an honor to call him my friend. And let me be very clear: I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.
RAY SUAREZ: Clinton spoke to supporters at a New York rally last night, and avoided saying Obama had won or that she had lost.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Now, the question is: Where do we go from here? And given how far we’ve come and where we need to go as a party, it’s a question I don’t take lightly. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.
But this has always been your campaign. So, to the 18 million people who voted for me, and to our many other supporters out there of all ages, I want to hear from you. I hope you’ll go to my Web site at HillaryClinton.com and share your thoughts with me and help in any way that you can.
And in the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way.
RAY SUAREZ: Obama held his primary night rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of this summer’s Republican nominating convention. He told the crowd that the country was at a critical point in its history.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations, but I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.
Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless…
… this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…
… this was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.
RAY SUAREZ: Democratic Party leaders released a statement today urging all remaining uncommitted super-delegates to make their support known by Friday.