No one was surprised when Barack Obama secured the 2,118 delegates needed to win the Democratic Party nomination. Even though his rival, Hillary Clinton, had been making progress on the popular front over the past few months, she had been losing ground in the mathematics of delegate-counting. Nonetheless, her doggedness means Mr Obama has not emerged unscathed. He faces an immediate challenge of trying to accommodate Ms Clinton and some of her retinue into his operations. Ms Clinton’s concession speech was notable for its subtext: that she still saw herself as the better candidate and that Mr Obama would have to pay a high price for her support. The vice-presidency, for example, is probably more than Mr Obama would like to pay.
Ms Clinton’s race to the end has also revealed two gaping holes in her rival’s support base. The most critical may be the continuing lack of enthusiasm among Latin voters for Mr Obama. It is telling that even at this late hour, two-thirds of Puerto Rican primary voters preferred Ms Clinton over him. The other is the hardening hostility of White working class voters in the US’s industrial belts. Ms Clinton helped bring out this vote, subtly playing both race and class cards to turn it against Mr Obama. Unfortunately, there is little evidence she can now undo the damage she has done to Mr Obama with these groups. Mr Obama is likely to find the going easier in winning over elderly White and White women voters, two other fixtures of the Hillary constellation.
Mr Obama still has huge advantages over Republican candidate John McCain. These include his age, the general anti-Republican sentiment, a faltering economy, the Iraq war and a campaign coffer thrice the size of Mr McCain’s. He has been able to win sizeable White voting support in the Midwest, the US heartland, and even within the borders of the Confederacy. Mr Obama’s accomplishment can be attributed largely to his simple message: that after 15 years that had converted US domestic politics into an ideological battleground, he offers a politics that transcends class, race and partisanship. With the first serious Black candidate for the US presidency, history has been made.