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Clinton-Obama Race Proved an Epic, Historic Political Journey

After months of voting, the history-making nominating battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is reaching its long-awaited conclusion. A panel of political reporters, analysts and historians looks back on the race and what it may mean for the general election.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Democrats began their nominating process exactly five months ago today on a cold night in Iowa. Now, with the final votes being tallied, we take a look back at the long primary season, assess how it's ending, and what's next for both Clinton and Obama, with presidential historian Michael Beschloss; Clarence Page, columnist for the Chicago Tribune; Amy Walter, editor-in-chief of the Hotline, National Journal's political daily; and Chris Cillizza of WashingtonPost.com.

    Well, it's a warm night in June. And the Associated Press, as you just heard, is reporting that it's over.

    Clarence, you know, even though South Dakota and Montana results have yet to come in, but enough delegates have now declared themselves publicly or privately to be for Barack Obama, the first African-American to be the nominee of a major political party. Historic moment. What's the significance?

  • CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune:

    That's right. It is, indeed. And while I'm guarded about the projections, because we've had so many surprises this season, nevertheless, this is a historic moment, no matter what happens from here on out, nobody can take this away from Barack Obama.

    He has achieved something many people thought America was not ready for, but it has happened. And it bodes well for his future.

    We also had, as fate would have it, the first primary in which we had a truly viable female candidate, as well. And maybe it was the journalistic stars that decided we would have them both in the same primary. And that itself has caused tension within a party that has given such a premium to diversity.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Amy, how much time have we really had to sit back and think about just how historic this is?

  • AMY WALTER, Editor-in-Chief, The Hotline:

    Not much. We haven't had time to do much of any reflecting. And I think that's part of what's happening today, is this rush to get this nomination sewn up to say he is absolutely, positively the winner, and not waiting just for a few more hours to calculate that, I think suggests that this is — folks are ready to get to that place, maybe where there can be some reflection.

    I mean, obviously there's been a great deal of talk, a great deal of writing about this. The real question is, is there really, as seems to be construed, this idea that there's disunity now in the party because of the fact that you have these two historic firsts bumping up against each other and one person is going to have to lose?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And disunity or not, Michael, there is history here.

  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian:

    Sure, there is. You know, not only what Clarence mentioned, obviously, the first African-American as the nominee of a major party, but also you have to go back to even someone like Wendell Willkie in 1940. And even that comparison doesn't do it justice. Willkie was a CEO in New York City, unknown.

    Four years ago tonight, Barack Obama was someone — we three have all lived in Chicago. I think we may have known about him from Illinois politics, but most Americans had never heard of him. Even just four years ago, he was a state legislator. Now he's poised to very possibly be the next president. It can't get much more historic than that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It's still astonishing on many levels.

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