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Obama Points to Pledged Delegates

DON GONYEA: This is Don Gonyea with the Obama campaign in Des Moines, where he was greeted last night by a raucous crowd of 7,500 at an outdoor rally not far from the State Capitol building.

(Soundbite of song, "Beautiful Day")

BONO (Lead Singer, U2): (Singing) You know I'm not a hopeless case. What you don't have…

GONYEA: This is where Obama won his first big victory this year in the Iowa caucuses back on January 3rd, and he came back to celebrate and to remember.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): It is good to be back in Iowa.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: And while yesterday's primaries may have been a split decision for Obama, he easily strode past another milestone in the race. With last night's results, the Obama campaign has guaranteed that the primary season will end with him holding a majority of the delegates won in primaries and caucuses.

Sen. OBAMA: We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people…

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: …and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America.

GONYEA: But Obama did stop just short of claiming the nomination itself. It's not that he doubts the trend. For months, he led among pledged delegates but trailed among superdelegates. And earlier this month, he passed Hillary Clinton in that category as well, opening a lead that continues to widen almost daily. But he also has to be careful not to anger Clinton supporters by prematurely declaring her candidacy over before she does so herself, hence this language at the Des Moines rally last night.

Sen. OBAMA: Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age. And for that, we are grateful to her.

GONYEA: But for the Iowa-based Obama supporters standing outside on this relatively balmy evening, Obama was back in their town to mark the spot where his ascent began while they, these voters, say they are ready for the next big test. Jason Belding is a 38-year-old Des Moines banker.

Mr. JASON BELDING (Banker): I think most of the people kind of realize that it's his nomination. I mean, all you hear him talking about is McCain, McCain, McCain. And when this is all done, all the Democrats are going to come together and get it going.

GONYEA: Obama is in Florida today and is, indeed, campaigning full time against John McCain, a strategy he'll continue over the next two weeks, while the last three primaries add their votes to the national tally.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

You want more coverage? Go where I just went: npr.org/elections. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Don Gonyea
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.