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Barack Obama Clinches Nomination; John McCain Addresses Supporters in Louisiana

Aired June 3, 2008 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: History about to be made here in the United States. Six delegates, six, that's all Senator Barack Obama needs in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination and become the first African American in American history to secure the nomination of a major party.
Only six delegates right now. He has 2,112 by our estimate. He needs 2,118 in order to clinch this nomination. That could happen momentarily, even before the results are in from Montana and South Dakota. The only two remaining primaries still left to be tallied right now.

We're watching all of this very, very closely. Six delegates. That's all. Take a look at the bottom of your screen. You will see that number. He has 2,112. That number is going to change, as we find out that more delegates, superdelegates, are either committing themselves to Barack Obama or deciding to switch from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

This is going to be a very historic night. We're standing. By later this hour, we will be hearing from Senator John McCain. We believe, in the next hour, we will be hearing from Senator Hillary Clinton. And, finally, we will be hearing from Barack Obama, who, at some point tonight, by all indications, will, in fact, have clinched the nomination of the Democratic Party.

We have extensive coverage coming up throughout these coming hours.

But let's walk over to John Roberts. He's over at what we like to call our magic wall, showing us what's going on.

These two states, it is possible, even before the polls close at 9:00 p.m. Eastern in South Dakota and 10:00 p.m. Eastern Montana, it is very possible that he will have secured that magic number.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": Wolf, let's take a look at where we are now, 2,118, the new magic number to win. This is where he is.

Remember the days when he was back here? Not back there anymore. He only needs six more delegates now in order to cross that finish line. Where can he get those delegates? Let's go here to South Dakota. The polls are closing there. Let's take a look here. Hillary Clinton, the latest polls, American Research Group, was up 60 percent to 40 percent. Now, the Clinton campaign thinks that might be a little high, but perhaps it's in the ballpark as well. So, let's game it out that way. First of all, let's give her all of the delegates and then let's chip away at them. A 60/40 split would give her 13 to his 10. He's got four superdelegates right now.

Let's add, one, two, three, four, five, six more. When he gets there, he has got the nomination. He's got some insurance, too, as well. Let's bring up Montana here. Montana, he is ahead. All of these areas in here, a lot of Democrats in these areas here, Indian reservations up this way, down near billings. He was -- here at Crow Agency, he actually named an honorary member of the tribe, Blackfeet Indian Reservation up there.

A lot of support for Barack Obama in this state. He's ahead according to the latest polls by about four or five points above Hillary Clinton. So here's the way things would -- whoops -- here's the way that things would split out for him. Let's bring her up to the top here and take it down.

It would probably be 11/11 or maybe 12 delegates for him, 10 for her. And let's game that out here on our linear graph, Barack Obama right now, 2,112. We add in the results that we just plugged in, 2127. He is over the line.

Even if she got all of these superdelegates, she couldn't make it there, so he could potentially be the nominee, depending on how the vote breaks down.

BLITZER: So, what you're saying, even if he doesn't secure more superdelegates within the course of the next hour or so, by the time all the political dust settles tonight, when we know the results of these two final primaries, he's going to have more than enough to be the Democratic presidential nominee?

ROBERTS: There is some thinking, Wolf, that he is within six now. Remember that, six away. All of these announcements of superdelegates that have happened since Florida and Michigan were decided got him very, very close to the line.

There's a sense here if you want to play this politically and you want to make it look very good for Barack Obama, you get him within spitting distance with the superdelegates, and then you let the pledged delegates, the ones that people vote for, take him over the top. So, I wouldn't be surprised if between now and the time that these results start to come in, we don't hear of any more superdelegates pledging.

BLITZER: But you know what? They have been changing very dramatically, because we have our people that are in constant touch with those superdelegates. And several of them are making decisions, flipping from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

And, in fact, we're ready to make a major announcement right now.

All right. So, here's what we can tell you right now. The number has gone from six to five. Only five more delegates are needed by Barack Obama to secure the nomination. We were saying that the superdelegates are either changing their mind or going from uncommitted or undeclared to declared, to committed for Barack Obama.

And right now the number has moved up to 2,113 that he has. He needs 2,118. So, he is only five delegates away. And this is before we have counted any of the ballots in either Montana or South Dakota. He's going to go over the top tonight. The question is this? Will he go over the top tonight before the polls close in South Dakota, an hour later in Montana, or will he have to wait for those polls to actually close?

Right now, only five -- only five delegates he needs to achieve that magic number.

Jessica Yellin Jessica is in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Barack Obama is going to be speaking later tonight. Candy Crowley is here in New York where Hillary Clinton is getting ready to speak to her supporters.

Let's go to Jessica first.

First of all, for viewers who haven't been paying a whole lot of attention, why St. Paul?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Saint Paul is the site of the Republican Convention coming up at the end of this summer.

It is where John McCain will claim the Republican nomination. And Barack Obama is arriving here to claim this ground as Democratic territory. This is a state that has been blue. It has voted for presidential -- Democratic presidential candidates since Richard Nixon.

But George H.W. -- George W. Bush -- excuse me -- the current president, came close to winning here in 2004, just 3 percent away. And the Republicans are trying to put this in the red column in November. Barack Obama is making a stake here tonight, a shot over the bow to the Republicans, saying, no, they will keep it blue.

Now, I will tell you, Wolf, folks gathered here, some waited in line as long as four hours, they say. They are here to see history made. I asked them of the people who have arrived what they want to hear. They say -- some say they want to see Barack Obama -- quote -- "go after" John McCain and the GOP. Someone else said they want to see Barack Obama -- quote -- "show us some love."

I'm saying they are going to see a little bit of both. David Axelrod from the Obama campaign says they are going to see all of that and they are also going to savor this night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they are also going to see him make some very conciliatory comments, praiseworthy comments about Hillary Clinton as well. Now, how many people can sit -- can fit into that stadium where you are right now, which, as you know, happens to be the exact same site where the Republicans will hold their convention in early September?

YELLIN: It holds 18,000 people. So, you can expect another one of Barack Obama's mega-forums tonight.

And I actually talked to some Clinton supporters who were here in the audience who are already coming out. They wanted to hear Barack Obama's message. They said they are open to him, but they want to hear what he has to say, a lot of bridges to mend, a lot of healing to be done. He wants to start down that path tonight.

BLITZER: And I think a lot of people appreciate, Jessica -- and I wonder if the people at that stadium appreciate the historic nature of what we're about to see unfold on live television here in the United States and around the world, a major party in the United States for the first time ever going forward and giving the presidential nomination to an African-American.

YELLIN: That's right.

So many people are here. They brought their kids because they say they want to say they were here when history was made, the first African-American to become the nominee of either party in the U.S.

And I will tell you, there's a lot of joy and there's some sadness, some people who say they are sad to see that it didn't go to Senator Clinton, to the first female. So, some mixed feelings, actually, in this audience, but enormous emotion and enormous excitement about the historic nature of tonight, the first African- American and a very excited candidate, for all these young people who are here, a candidate who inspires them, to claim this tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it will be electric when he walks into that stadium later. We will be bringing our viewers, of course, his remarks. That's coming up.

But, Jessica, thanks very much.

Let's go to Candy Crowley. She's here in New York.

It's a different scene over there where you are, Candy. This is where Hillary Clinton is going to be addressing her supporters. She's got a difficult assignment for her tonight going forward.


I mean, here is what you will not hear from Hillary Clinton tonight: "I concede" or "I quit."

We just asked again, did another round of calls, talked to people here in this room. They said, no, she wants to take a breather. She understands the math. She knows what's going on. But she feels, first of all, to history and second of all to her supporters, that this needs to be done in a certain way, and that she's been out there on the campaign trail and hasn't really had the time to kind of figure out how it is she wants to do this.

I will tell you that this is the time in any primary night when you can see all of the surrogates here talking about what they are hearing from the exit polls and how they think their candidate is going to win and how they are doing with this demographic and that demographic.

Let me tell you what the surrogates are talked about tonight. They're here saying there needs to be a unity ticket. She needs to be on this ticket. They are pushing it very hard. As you know, Hillary Clinton herself in a conference call today with her New York delegation that has been supporting her from the very beginning said that she would be open to the idea of being number two on the ticket.

The people here, her supporters, some of them high-profile, are not just open to it. They are pushing for it. You will see a big movement online to kind of try to pressure Barack Obama into moving that direction.

It's very interesting to me that on what surely is Barack Obama's night, because we know that he is going to go over that magic number and become the presumptive nominee, that on his night, the Clinton campaign does, indeed, have its share of that headline, as she is floating out there -- or her supporters are floating out there -- that she would indeed be open to being number two on the ticket -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And no more talk -- at least, we're not hear any talk whatsoever about challenging the decision involving Michigan, going to a credentials committee, taking this all the way to the Denver convention. I don't hear any of that talk anymore. We did hear it on Saturday.

CROWLEY: We did, and that was the heat of the moment.

But I have to tell you, even before Saturday, I had any number of people around here saying, listen, what you have to understand is, she understands her place in the party. She is very aware of the role she wants to play in this party. And she is not going to tear it apart.

They were saying even before this weekend that, in fact, she didn't want to tear the party apart and would not go to the convention and have a big fight. She will hold true to that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Candy, the delegate move, you will be interested to know, is moving once again.

It's now only four. Only four delegates he needs in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Right now, the number he has is 2,114. He needs 2,118 to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. He is only four shy of that so-called magic number. We're watching this.

These superdelegates, some of them are changing their minds, going from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. Some others who have not declared are in fact finally declaring right now. And, once again, the magic number, four, and only four before he manages to secure this nomination. And that could happen any moment now. It could certainly happen before the polls even are closed in these final two contests in South Dakota and Montana.

Remember, is where you can see all of this unfold in dramatic ways. We have got a lot of important information. Our coverage of this historic night here in the United States is only just beginning.

We will be right back from the CNN Election Center.


BLITZER: After all these months, Barack Obama right now only needs four -- four more superdelegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

Right now, he has 2,114, by our estimate. The magic number is 2,118, only four needed. If you take a look at the bottom of the screen, you will see that number. If it changes, you will see it there. You are going to see the tally all the time if you are watching in high definition on the side panel.

This is an exciting night certainly for Barack Obama, as he gets ready to declare that he will be the Democratic presidential nominee.

And I just want to let you know how we're going about these numbers. Why is there only four left? Our political unit has been canvassing all of those undeclared superdelegates who have not yet decided who they wanted to support. They are making their decisions right now.

We are also in touch with other superdelegates, some of whom have earlier -- had earlier endorsed Hillary Clinton. But now they are changing their minds, going from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, as they clearly see the handwriting on the wall.

So, we're in constant touch with these hundreds of superdelegates. And that's why these numbers are changing as rapidly and as dramatically as they are. And you have seen these numbers change during the course of the past few hours. And we expect that they will change very quickly as well.

We are going to stay on top of it.

Remember, standing by, we're going to be hearing very soon from Senator John McCain. He's down in Louisiana. He's decided to make a major address this night as well.

Later, Hillary Clinton will be speaking here in New York to her supporters. And, finally, Barack Obama at some point later tonight, we will be hearing from him as well. All three of these remaining presidential candidates have major addresses. They have a lot on their minds. We're going to be hearing what they have to say.

Let's go over to Campbell Brown. She's got our analysts here.

And, as I always like to say, Campbell, they are part of the best political team on television.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You do always like to say that, Wolf.

And they are indeed the best political team on television.

So, guys, we're going to talk a lot, I know, about how Hillary Clinton lost this campaign, about whether or not she's going to be Barack Obama's V.P.

But let's get out of the weeks for a moment, David Gergen, and just acknowledge that this is truly a history-making night, to have an African-American about to become the Democratic nominee.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And he deserves enormous credit for what he has done.

After all, it was only a few months ago when he started and he had barely 20 percent name recognition. He had no organization, and he put together this phenomenal campaign. He's had some trouble toward the end of the campaign. But if you look at the totality of what he has he has done -- and I think we're seeing it tonight, as he's getting this surge of superdelegates during the day.

This is very well-orchestrated for a television kind of finale tonight. So, that is all, I think -- and I think we have to say, he's been a phenom and -- within American politics. And I think it's particularly poignant that, in 2008, it comes exactly 200 years after we ended slavery in the United States, exactly 200 years after we ended slavery -- I mean, ended the slave trade.


GERGEN: Sorry, the slave trade.


GERGEN: The slave trade -- the slave trade ended in 1808.

And here, 200 years later, we have come this far. And I can tell you, just in our lifetimes -- I'm from North Carolina. It's inconceivable to me that Barack Obama would have won the way he did and gotten as many white votes in North Carolina 20 years, even 10 years ago. The country has changed. And he's hastened that change. And that's what makes this such an important evening.

BROWN: Donna Brazile, I know you are an undeclared superdelegate, and you're not going to declare right now. But just talk to me about what it means to you personally to see this moment arrive.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, David was talking about history.

And, just 44 years ago, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper's daughter, knocked on the Democratic Party's door, and they said, we don't have a seat at the table. Then she went to the convention with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and she was able to get a seat at the table.

Now, this is 24 years since Walter Mondale put a woman on the ticket. This has been a historic march, a march that the Democratic Party had to -- had to join. And now, tonight, the Democratic Party will make history by nominating the nation's first African-American. It is a very proud moment, indeed.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just add another historical note that I noticed?


BROWN: Yes, quickly.

TOOBIN: In May of 1961, that was the Freedom Riders, where John Lewis and Diane Nash and a bunch of young people risked their lives and they were beaten as they road Trailways buses through the South.

August 4 of that summer, Barack Obama was born. And I think that really illustrates how much this country has changed in 47 years.


BROWN: All right, guys, hold that thought. This is going to be our focus a lot tonight. You have got to give him his night, certainly.

We're going to have an interview coming up shortly with the McCain campaign, as Wolf mentioned a bit ago. John McCain is also giving a major speech tonight. So, we will have a little bit on that coming up.

But we're going to take a quick break.

Stay with us. You're watching the best political team on television.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting.

Four, four delegates, that's all Senator Barack Obama needs in order to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. We're canvassing those superdelegates right now. That number has steadily shrunk over the past few hours. We're going to update you when that number shrinks a little bit more. And, of course, we will let you know when he reaches that magic number of 2,118, the number needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

That potentially could happen at any moment, even before they close the ballots in South Dakota and in Michigan. By the way, in South Dakota, some of the polling precincts have already closed. That's why you are going to start seeing some numbers coming up at the bottom of the screen. The polls that have already closed in South Dakota, some of those precincts, they are already counting the votes there. But the polls in South Dakota, all of them won't close until the top of the hour. That's when we will be in a position perhaps to project a winner.

They close at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour later, in Montana -- lots of excitement happening on this day.

Let's walk over and talk to Steve Schmidt. He's in Kenner, Louisiana, right now. That's where Senator John McCain is getting ready to address his supporters. Steve Schmidt is a senior adviser to Senator McCain.

Steve, thanks very much for joining us.

Why Louisiana? Why Kenner, Louisiana, which is right outside of New Orleans? What was your thinking, other than the obvious fact that Louisiana is going to be a battleground state come November?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, good evening, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

Senator McCain is very excited tonight to launch the general election campaign from here outside of New Orleans. And, of course, no city speaks to the American people more directly about the need for fundamental reform and change than does New Orleans.

Senator McCain is going to talk tonight about the great task at hand to fix our government, to change the way Washington works, and to begin the great debate that the American people deserve that he intends to have against Senator Barack Obama in these momentous times that we all live in.

BLITZER: Well, here's the question, though. Why tonight? This is the night that Barack Obama is going to go over the top. It's clearly an historic night in U.S. history, the first African-American to secure the nomination of a major party here in the United States.

Was there some thinking that maybe let Barack Obama have this night and Senator McCain should perhaps stay silent?

SCHMIDT: Well, of course, all of the candidates will be speaking tonight.

The general election begins tonight. Senator McCain has been waiting for a long time for the Democrats to choose their candidate to begin this great debate about how to secure the peace for the next generation, about how to grow our economy, about how to make America energy independent, about how to fix health care so it works for American families in the 21st century. So that debate begins tonight. Senator McCain congratulates Senator Obama. He has great admiration for Senator Clinton.

But the American people are excited about this race. They're paying close attention. And tonight is obviously a great night from here outside of New Orleans for Senator McCain to begin laying out the great debate, the great choice for the American people.

BLITZER: One of the themes the Democrats -- and you know this, Steve. You're one of the best political strategists out there. The Democrats will continue to insist, you know what, John McCain represents a third term for President Bush.

If you want more of the war in Iraq, vote for John McCain. If you want more of the economy under President Bush, vote for John McCain. How are you planning to rebut that argument, because we're about to hear a whole lot of that?

SCHMIDT: Well, the American people know Senator McCain. And they know Senator McCain is an independent voice who always puts his country first.

A couple of years ago there was a vote on an energy bill. It was a giveaway to the oil companies. The American people might be surprised to find out that Senator McCain voted against that bill; Senator Obama sided with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, voted for it.

When we were losing this war in Iraq, it was Senator McCain who stood up almost alone and said, "We have to change this strategy." He criticized the mismanagement of the war, was the leading voice for the new strategy that leads today to us winning that war.

And the reality is that Senator Obama is running on a platform to undo that progress in Iraq.

One of the great debates that we'll have in this campaign is, which of the two candidates is best able to secure the peace for the next generation of Americans?

Senator McCain is going to go to the country and make his case that he is that candidate, that he knows war. He hates war. He despises it. But the central lesson of history is that peace comes through strength.

And Senator Obama's serial misjudgments on these issues will make our country less secure and make the world more dangerous. And we look forward to having that debate.

BLITZER: And we are going to start that debate. That debate is going to unfold beginning tonight.

In Kenner, Louisiana, Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Senator McCain.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: We're standing by for his speech. Once he starts speaking, we're going to go back to where you are.

Steve, thanks very much for joining us.

Once again, four, that's all the delegates that Senator Barack Obama needs in order to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Our political unit is canvassing the delegates. That number could change momentarily. We will stay on top of it.

Remember, is where you can get a whole lot more information as well.

Our coverage continues.


BLITZER: Barack Obama needs four more delegates. Only four more delegates to have 2,118 delegates, and that's enough to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

He'll reach that number, perhaps momentarily. They might have to wait a little bit. He might reach it before the polls. All the polls close in South Dakota at the top of the hour or an hour later, 10:00 p.m. Eastern in Montana. But he's going to reach that number tonight and history will be made here in the United States.

So we're watching it very closely. We're standing by to hear from Senator McCain, later from Senator Clinton, and later after that from Senator Obama himself. This is clearly his night.

Let's walk over to Campbell. She's got analysis with our team -- Campbell.

BROWN: That's right, Wolf. And I want to pick up where we left off talking about how we got to this night, how much the country has changed.

And Gloria, you were saying it's not just about race as we said earlier.


BROWN: But it's about the next generation who are in large part responsible for getting him here.

BORGER: It is. And when Obama started this campaign, he talked about the fact that we had to get over the old fights of the '60s, and that this these were being relitigated in Washington and that it was time for change, a word we've heard throughout this entire campaign.

But I think if they weren't for that cohort of younger voters that we've seen come out in this primary process, he might not have been where he is right now. So not only is he the first African- American, but he has brought out a whole new group of voters who clearly want to take that baton and run with it. BROWN: And you spent a lot of time out on the trail traveling with him and talking to people in states where this was extraordinarily significant.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This moment really kind of reminds me of some of the people who I met in South Carolina. There was an 80-year-old man who had gone through the time of segregation with the separate bathrooms and sitting in the back of the bus and the whole civil rights movement. It was his first time that he voted, that he went out and participated in the process. And he felt like Barack Obama was really his prince, the embodiment of the civil rights movement.

There was young people as well. You know, I met a 17-year-old kid who said that it made him feel differently about who he was and the potential of inside of himself and the country. I think there's a real sense of what could be possible and what could be achieved within the African-American community, and I think it brought out a lot of people who had never participated before.

BROWN: This honeymoon though is not going to last very long. In fact, let's see, about four more minutes maybe?

We're waiting on John McCain to take the stage in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, where he is giving a speech tonight that is -- you can characterize it maybe as his "I'm not George W. Bush" speech. But it's fairly tough. I mean, we expect to hear him be fairly tough on Obama tonight. This is the launch of the general election campaign, isn't it, Jeff?

TOOBIN: It's --

BROWN: The official launch.

TOOBIN: And it's a general election campaign where in my lifetime I don't think there are two candidates who differ on more issues more profoundly than John McCain and Barack Obama. This is a campaign that will really determine which direction this country is going. Because whether it's Iraq, whether it's the economy, whether it's the future of the Supreme Court and abortion rights, this election is going to decide it. And I think both candidates are ready to take that on, and I hope it really is an election that's about the issues.

BORGER: But it's so interesting because John McCain is saying to people, OK, I agree with George Bush on Iraq, although I think he prosecuted the war badly. But what we're going to hear tonight is don't ever confuse me with George W. Bush. I mean, that is going to be his message. He is speaking to those independent voters that he's worried Barack Obama might have some appeal with.

BROWN: I want to walk back here and ask James Carville to join us for a second because we've been talking a lot about Obama.



TOOBIN: Wake up, James. It's showtime.

BROWN: A lot about McCain, this about in the speeches we mentioned. But I want to ask you about Hillary Clinton, too, because this has got to be a crushingly disappointing night for her. You have to hand it to her.

She campaigned harder than, you know, anybody. There is, without question, she gave it everything she had.

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Absolutely. And now, it's a big night. Congratulations to Senator Obama, by the way. But, of course, people worked hard and a lot of her supporters, a lot of her voters, a lot of people. It's going to have to be a reconciliation here. I think she's going to have to, you know, she'll go to work and try to do everything she can to help the ticket.

BROWN: How soon do you think that's going to happen?

CARVILLE: Well, a campaign is not a light switch. You don't just turn it on and off. Probably she has to call people. She has to bring them in. I think she is going to want to help the ticket as much as she possibly can. I think she's going to have to coax some people out of some caves here to people that still would like this fight to go on.

I think it's going to take, I don't know if it's going to take two days or four days or six days. I have no idea. But it's not going to -- she's going to do it on her own time. She has a lot of people to thank. She has a lot of people to talk to. She has a lot of people to bring along.

So this thing is going to be -- has to be done very methodically and very smart, and she and senator -- she's not going to be able to do it alone. She's going to need a lot of help from Senator Obama to get this done to get the party where we all want it to be in Denver.

BROWN: Jamal? Here Jamal Simmons, an Obama supporter.

She -- you know, he's got a problem on his hands. And I do want to ask you this and the whole panel.


JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the night is enough problem.

BROWN: I want to mention --

John -- OK, hold on, hold that thought. We'll come back to it. John McCain is just now taking the stage to start that speech we mentioned a moment ago, introduced by the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, who gets talked about as a potential VP for McCain as well.

Let's listen in. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you to the great governor and my friends, good evening from the great city of New Orleans. Thank you and good evening.


Tonight, we can say with confidence that the primary season is over and the general election campaign has begun. I commend both Senators Obama and Clinton for the long hard race they have run.

Senator Obama has impressed many Americans with his eloquence and his spirited campaign. Senator Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage. The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received. As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there's no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach. I'm proud to call her my friend.

Pundits and party elders have declared that Senator Obama will be my opponent. He will be a formidable one. But I'm ready for the challenge and determined to run this race in a way that does credit to our campaign and to the proud, decent and patriotic people that I asked to lead.


MCCAIN: The decision facing Americans in this election couldn't be more important to the future security and prosperity of American families. This is, indeed, a change election. No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically. But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change. Between going forward and going backward.

America has seen tough times before. We've always known how to get through them, and we've always believed that our best days are ahead of us.


MCCAIN: I believe that still, but we must rise the occasion as we always have. Change what must be changed and make the future better than the past. The right change recognizes that many of the policies and institutions of our government have failed. They've failed to keep up with the challenges of our time because many of these policies were designed for the problems and opportunities of the mid to late 20th century before the end of the Cold War, before the revolution and information technology and rise of the global economy.

The right kind of change will initiate widespread and innovative reforms in almost every area of government policy. Health care, energy, the environment, the tax code, our public schools, our transportation system, disaster relief, government spending and regulation, diplomacy, the military and intelligence services. Serious and far-reaching reforms are needed in so many areas of government to meet our own challenges in our own time.

The irony is that Americans have been experiencing a lot of change in their lives attributable to these historic events. And some of these changes have distressed many American families. Job loss, failing schools, prohibitively expensive health care, pensions at risk, entitlement programs approaching bankruptcy, rising gas and food prices, to name a few. But your government often acts as if it is completely unaware of the changes and hardships in your lives. And when government does take notice, often it only makes matters worse.

For too long, we have let history outrun our government's ability to keep up with it. The right change will stop impeding Americans from doing what they have always done -- overcome every obstacle to our progress, turn challenges and opportunity into opportunities, and by our own industry, imagination and courage, make a better country and a safer world than the one that we inherited.


MCCAIN: To keep our nation prosperous, strong and growing, we have to rethink, reform and reinvent the way we educate our children, train our workers, deliver health care services, support retirees, fuel our transportation network, stimulate research and development and harness new technologies.

To keep us safe, we must rebuild the structure and mission of our military, the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the reach and scope of our diplomacy, the capacity of all branches of government to defend us. We need to strengthen our alliances and preserve our moral credibility. We must also prepare far better than we have to respond quickly and effectively to a natural calamity.


MCCAIN: You know that. You know that. You know that. When Americans confront a catastrophe, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government. Firemen and policemen should be able to communicate with each other in an emergency. We should be able to deliver bottled hot water to dehydrated babies and rescue the infirm from a hospital with no electricity.


MCCAIN: Our disgraceful failure to do so here in New Orleans exposed the incompetence of government at all levels to meet even its most basic responsibilities. The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again.

You know, I have a few years on my opponent. So I'm surprised that a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas.


MCCAIN: Like others before him, he seems to think government is the answer to every problem. That government should take our resources and make our decisions for us.


MCCAIN: That type of government doesn't trust Americans to know what's right or what's best in their own interest. It's the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency and common sense of free people.

That attitude created the unresponsive bureaucracies of big government in the first place, and that's -- and that's not change we can believe in.


MCCAIN: Now, you'll hear from my opponent's campaign in every speech, in every interview, every press release that I am running for President Bush's third term. You'll hear -- you'll hear every policy of the president has described as the Bush/McCain policy.

Why does Senator Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something that they know is false.


MCCAIN: So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it, rather than debate honestly the very different directions he and I would take the country. But the American people didn't get to know me yesterday as they're just getting to know Senator Obama.


MCCAIN: They know -- they know I have a long record of bipartisan problem-solving. They've seen me put our country before any president, before any party, before any special interest before my own interest. They might think me --


MCCAIN: They might think me an imperfect servant of our country, which I surely am, but I am her servant, first, last and always.


MCCAIN: I've worked with a president to keep our nation safe, but he and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues. We disagreed over the conduct of the war in Iraq and the treatment of detainees, out of over out of control government spending and budget gimmicks, over energy policy and climate change. Over defense spending that favored defense contractors over the public good.

I strongly -- I strongly disagreed with the Bush administration's mismanagement of the war in Iraq. I called for the change in strategy. I called for the change in strategy that is now at last succeeding, where the previous strategy had failed miserably. (APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I was criticized -- I was criticized for doing so by Republicans. I was criticized by Democrats. I was criticized by the press. But I don't answer to them. I answer to you.


MCCAIN: I would be ashamed to admit I knew what had to be done in Iraq to spare us from a defeat that would endanger us for years, but I kept quiet because it was too politically hard for me to do. No ambition is more important to me than the security of the country I have defended all my life.


AUDIENCE: John McCain, John McCain, John McCain, John McCain, John McCain, John McCain, John McCain, John McCain!

MCCAIN: Senator Obama opposed a new strategy and after promising not to, voted to deny funds to the soldier who has done a brilliant and brave job of carrying it out. Yet, in the last year, we have seen the success of that plan as violence has fallen to a four-year low. Sunni insurgents have joined us in the fight against al-Qaeda. The Iraqi army has taken the lead in places once lost to Sunni and Shia extremists. And the Iraqi government has begun to make progress toward political reconciliation.

None of this progress would have happened had we not changed course over a year ago. All of this progress would be lost if Senator Obama had his way and begun to withdraw our forces from Iraq without concern for conditions on the ground and the advice of commanders in the fields.


MCCAIN: Americans ought to be concerned about the judgment of a presidential candidate who says he's ready to talk in person and without conditions with tyrants from Havana to Pyongyang --


MCCAIN: But hasn't traveled to Iraq to meet with General Petraeus and see for himself the progress he threatens to reverse. Americans should be concerned.


MCCAIN: I know Americans are tired of this war. I don't oppose a reckless withdrawal from Iraq because I'm indifferent to the suffering war inflicts on too many American families. I hate war, and I know very personally how terrible its costs are. But I know, too, that the course Senator Obama advocates could draw us into a wider war with even greater sacrifices, put peace further out of reach and Americans back in harm's way.

I can't let that happen. I can't let that happen.


MCCAIN: I take America's economic security as seriously as I do her physical security. For eight years the federal government has been on a spending spree that added trillions to the national debt. It spends more and more of your money on programs that have failed again and again, to keep up with the changes confronting American families.

Extravagant spending on things that are not the business of government indebts us to other nations, fuels inflations, raises interest rates and encourages irresponsibilities.

I have opposed wasteful spending by both parties and the Bush administration. Senator Obama has supported it and proposed more of his own.


MCCAIN: I want to freeze discretionary spending until we have completed top to bottom reviews of all federal programs to weed out failing ones. Senator Obama opposes that reform.

I oppose subsidies that favor big business over small farmers and tariffs on imported products that will greatly increase the cost of food. Senator Obama supports these billions of dollars in corporate subsidies and the tariffs that have led to rising grocery bills for American families. That's not change we can believe in.

No problem is more urgent today than America's dependence on foreign oil. It threatens our security, our economy and our environment. The next president must be willing to break completely with the energy policies, not just of the Bush administration, but the administrations that preceded his. And lead a great national campaign to put us on a course to energy independence.


MCCAIN: We must unleash the creativity and ingenious of Americans and encourage industries to pursue and produce alternative, nonpolluting, renewable energy sources where demand will never exceed supply. Senator Obama voted for the same policies that created the problem.

In fact, he voted for the energy bill promoted by the president and Vice President Cheney which gave even more breaks to the oil industry. I opposed it because I know we won't achieve energy independence by repeating the mistakes of the last half century. That's not change we can believe in.


MCCAIN: With forward thinking Democrats and Republicans, I proposed a climate change policy that would greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our approach was opposed by President Bush and by leading Democrats, and it was defeated by opposition from special interests that favor Republicans and those that favor Democrats.

Senator Obama might criticize special interest that give more money to Republicans, but you won't often see him take on those that favor him.

If America is going to achieve energy independence, we need a president with a record of putting the nation's interests before the special interests of either party.


MCCAIN: I have that record. I have that record. Senator Obama does not. Senator Obama proposes to keep spending money on programs that make our problems worse and create new ones that are modeled on big government programs that created much of the fiscal mess that we're now in. He plans to pay for these increases by raising taxes on seniors, parents, small business owners and every American, even with a modest investment in the market. He doesn't trust us to make decisions for ourselves and wants the government to make them for us.


MCCAIN: And that's not change we can believe in. Senator Obama thinks we can improve health care by driving Americans into a new system of government orders, regulations and mandates. I believe we can make health care more available, affordable and responsive to patients by breaking down inflationary practices, insurance regulations and tax policies that were designed generations ago, and by giving families more choices over their care.

His plan represents the old ways of government. Mine trusts in the common sense of the American people.


MCCAIN: Senator Obama pretends we can address the loss of manufacturing jobs by repealing trade agreements and refusing to sign new ones. That we can build a stronger economy by limiting access to our markets and giving up access to foreign markets. The global economy exists and is not going away. We either compete in it, which Americans can do, or we lose more jobs, more businesses, more dreams. We lose the future.

He's an intelligent man. And he must know how foolish it is to think Americans can remain prosperous without opening new markets to our goods and services. But he feels he must defer to the special interest that support him. That's not change we can believe in.


MCCAIN: Lowering trade barriers to American goods and services creates more and better jobs, keeps inflation under control, keeps interest rates low, and makes more goods affordable to more Americans. We won't compete successfully by using old technology to produce old goods. We'll succeed by knowing what to produce and inventing new technologies to produce it.

We're not people who believe only in the survival of the fittest. Work in America is more than a paycheck. It's a source of pride, self-reliance and identity.

But making empty promises to bring back lost jobs gives nothing to the unemployed worker except false hope. That's not change we can believe in.

BLITZER: We're going to break away from Senator McCain's speech in Louisiana right now because CNN has a major, major projection to make within a few seconds. Stand by for this.

CNN can now project that Senator Barack Obama has enough delegates to secure the Democrat presidential nomination. Senator Barack Obama goes over the threshold -- goes over 2,118 delegates. He will be the Democratic presidential nominee, based on our projected -- projections of the delegate count right now.