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Latest update : 2008-06-03

As Clinton and Obama near the end of the helter-skelter race to the Democratic nomination, the Illinois senator invited Clinton to work with him in November. Tuesday, the final two contests in Montana and South Dakota open.

WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) - Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton neared the finish line of their dramatic Democratic
presidential duel on Monday, with Obama poised to claim the
nomination as Clinton faced the possible end of her bid.

Campaigning before the final two nominating contests in
Montana and South Dakota, Obama promised to unify the party for
the November election against Republican John McCain and said
he and Clinton would be able to come together.

"Senator Clinton has run an outstanding race, she is an
outstanding public servant, and she and I will be working
together in November," Obama, an Illinois senator, said during
a campaign stop in Troy, Michigan.

Obama said he told Clinton in a phone conversation on
Sunday that "once the dust settled I was looking forward to
meeting with her at a time and place of her choosing."

Clinton made a final campaign visit to South Dakota before
she returns to New York on Tuesday for a rally that could be
her farewell to a race she entered as a heavy favorite but now
has almost no chance of winning.

Obama is fewer than 40 delegates shy of the 2,118 needed to
clinch the win, and could reach the number quickly with help
from some of the approximately 180 uncommitted superdelegates
-- party officials who can back any candidate at the August
nominating convention in Denver.

Obama gained seven more superdelegates on Monday, but the
slow trickle of endorsements could turn into a flood as the
voting ends in Montana and South Dakota, which have a combined
31 delegates at stake.

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking
Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the
top-ranking black member of Congress, was among the
superdelegates to indicate he will back Obama on Monday.

A group of 17 uncommitted Senate Democrats met on Monday to
discuss when to endorse Obama. Most are poised to announce
either on Tuesday, helping Obama lock up the nomination after
the final contests, or wait one more day to give Clinton a
chance to bow out, Senate aides said.

"There are a lot of superdelegates who are waiting for the
last couple of contests but I think that they are going to be
making decisions fairly quickly after that," Obama told
reporters in Michigan.

"My sense is that between Tuesday and Wednesday that we've
got a good chance of getting the number that we need to win the
nomination," he said.

Voting ends in South Dakota at 7 p.m. MDT/9 p.m. EDT (0100
GMT), and in Montana an hour later, with results expected
shortly after.


Campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee told reporters Clinton had
no plans to pull out of the race on Tuesday night, but her
husband, former President Bill Clinton, sounded like he was
counting down the hours at a campaign stop in South Dakota on

"This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign
of this kind," he said.

With no more campaign trips to plan, workers who handle
Clinton's advance travel arrangements have been told to go to
New York or head home until further notice, aides said.

But Clinton said Tuesday marked "the beginning of a new
phase of the campaign." She said she would be making her case
to superdelegates that she is the strongest candidate to beat
McCain in November.

"The decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote
at the Democratic convention. I will be spending the coming
days making my case to those delegates," Clinton told
supporters in Yankton, South Dakota.

"We have a very strong case to make that I am the best
positioned to take back the White House and put this country on
the right track," she said.

The New York senator also pressed her disputed claim that
she has won more popular votes than Obama in the five-month
race for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton's popular-vote math includes a disputed vote total
in Michigan, where the contest was not sanctioned by the
national party and Obama was not on the ballot. It does not
count contests won by Obama but waged in a caucus system that
does not tally individual votes.

Popular votes do not determine the party's nominee, who is
selected by delegates at the convention. Obama's lead in
delegates is unassailable unless Clinton wins nearly all the
remaining uncommitted superdelegates.

Date created : 2008-06-03