4 JUNE 2008

Four months after starting the White House race as the underdog Barack Obama is poised to become the first black candidate for the US presidency chosen by a major party - and possibly his country's first African American leader.

The Illinois senator, who was an unknown on the national stage only four years ago, claimed victory on the last day of the Democrats' primaries contest. He did so encouraged by clinching the "magic number" of delegates — 2,118 — needed for an outright win.

"I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States," the charismatic politician declared before a cheering 17,000-strong crowd at a rally in St Paul, Minnesota.

His rival in the hard fought contest, Hillary Clinton, stopped short of conceding defeat, but acknowleged his commanding position. "It has been an honour to contest these primaries with him, just as it is an honour to call him my friend," she told her supporters.

In private, the New York senator has already indicated to advisers that she's "open" to joining her Democratic colleague on a so-called dream ticket as the vice-presidential candidate.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
"I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States," Senator Obama told supporters, after the final primaries in his party's race to choose their presidential candidate gave him a commanding leadPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Facing the end of her White House dream this time around, his rival Hillary was gracious, hinting she would accept an invitation to stand for election alongside him as vice-presidentPhoto: © Getty Images
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