WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democrat Barack Obama plunged Wednesday into a five-month election battle with Republican John McCain after making history by becoming the first black of a major US party.
The Illinois senator's giant-killing win overcame at the climax late Tuesday of the longest, most expensive and spellbinding nominating epic ever.
Clinton has not yet conceded the race, but on Wednesday she held out an olive branch to Obama after he clinched the number of delegates needed to be the Democratic party's presidential nominee in the November elections.
"Let me be very clear, I know thatwill be a good friend to Israel," she told a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
But the former first lady stopped short of formally abandoning her quest to be the first woman elected to the Oval Office, and although they both addressed the gathering within minutes of each other they had no plans to meet.
Instead as President George W. Bush joined worldwide plaudits of Obama's stunning success, Clinton's supporters strove to coax the new Democratic standard-bearer into choosing her as his running mate.
Together, they would be "unstoppable," the New York senator's campaign chairman, MSNBC television. "I think we would have the White House for 16 years.", told
In a speech that was splashed across newspaper front-pages across the world, Obama declared to 19,000 baying supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota late Tuesday: "America, this is our moment.
"This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past," he said in an address in the same spot where Republicans are set to anoint McCain theirat a September convention.
Obama's momentous victory , five months since his shock win over Clinton in the very first nominating contest in Iowa, sets up an intriguing general election clash with Republican Arizona senator McCain.
On November 4, voters must pick between Obama, 46, a freshman senator and charismatic mixed-race standard-bearer of a new political generation, and McCain, 71, a wounded Vietnam war hero asking for one final call to service.
Dana Perino said: "President Bush congratulates Senator Obama."
Bush "knows from personal experience that the presidential nominating process is a grueling one, andcame a long way in becoming his party's nominee," she told reporters.
, the first black woman to be the nation's top diplomat, hailed Obama's victory as a sign that America was "an extraordinary country."
"I think that what we're seeing is an extraordinary expression of the fact that 'We the people,' is beginning to mean all of us," she told reporters.
Obama meanwhile was laying out the contours of his presidential program, insisting Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel, and saying he would work to "eliminate" the threat posed by Iran.
The Illinois senator also heaped poured more praise on his Democratic rival saying again that she had made "history." "I want to acknowledge... for the extraordinary race that she has run," he said.
Clinton has said she will now consult with supporters and party leaders on the way forward.
Failing an outright concession from the New York senator, the Democratic Party's seniormost figures are reportedly set to go public with an appeal to the last undeclared "superdelegates" to declare their preferred candidate.
House of Representatives , and were to release a statement Wednesday urging the party to close ranks against McCain, the Huffington Post website and CNN reported.
Obama captured the final primary in Montana, after a flood of endorsements from Democratic superdelegates during the day, and vaulted over the winning post of 2,118 delegates needed at the party's August nominating convention.
Clinton snapped up a consolation victory in South Dakota's primary. According to RealClearPolitics.com, Obama now has 2,165 delegates to the former first lady's 1,923.