Politics

Obama Looks to Clinch Tuesday

Senior advisers to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are increasingly confident the final day of the six-month chase for the Democratic nomination will produce just enough delegates for Obama to vanquish his inexhaustible rival, Hillary Clinton.

The magic hours for Obama could fall between sunset and the time he hits the stage in St. Paul for the penultimate victory party of this historic primary campaign.

Senior officials tell FOX News Obama expects to collect at least 10 new super delegate endorsements before the polls close in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.

The Obama camp also expects to win Montana comfortably and squeak by Clinton in South Dakota, thereby winning 17 or 18 of the 31 pledged delegates available in both states.

Obama ended Monday 41.5 delegates away from the 2,118 needed to capture the nomination.

With the endorsement Tuesday of House Majority Whip, James Clyburn of South Carolina, Obama's magic number is already one delegate closer than the tally officially recognized by the Obama campaign.

With at least 10 new superdelegates expected to declare before the polls close in the Mountain West and the projected 17-18 gain in pledged delegates from Montana and South Dakota, Obama would be less than 15 delegates away from the nomination as he prepares to take the stage in the city, St. Paul, Minn., and in the arena where Republicans will anoint John McCain their nominee in early September.

Obama officials expect to attract endorsements from more than a dozen superdelegates as soon as the Montana and South Dakota polls close and, as such, will either be just under or just over the threshold of 2,118 delegates. Several House members have withheld their endorsement for Obama pending the end of the primaries. A handful of senators who have been leaning toward Obama may also announce their support after the polls close in what may be a coordinated burst of super delegate support just before Obama's Tuesday speech.

"We expect to do well with superdelegates and are hopeful enough will come in tomorrow to make Senator Obama the nominee," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "We've been in almost (constant) contact with the superdelegates for some time now and so we have a pretty good feel for their situation."

Obama is planning a victory speech that will make the general election argument for change but also lavish praise on Clinton's campaign as Obama seeks to defuse any possible friction with the New York senator. Senior Obama advisers are less sanguine about lowering the temperature with former President Bill Clinton, who complained bitterly Monday in South Dakota about what he considered soft media coverage of Obama and harsh treatment of his wife.

For now, team Obama is focusing exclusively on courting Clinton -- not in terms of drafting her as a running mate -- but as an ally in redirecting party activists loyal to her campaign away from her campaign and toward the general election. The Obama camp is not going to discuss running mate issues for several weeks as it wants the nation to focus exclusively on Obama's message against McCain and as it sizes him up as the new Democratic standard bearer. Getting bogged down in speculation on running mates, they believe, would create an unwelcome and counter-productive distraction.

"Senator Clinton is such as exemplary public servant, has run such a good campaign and so dedicated to this race and the party winning, we believe she will want to help our campaign," Burton said, echoing Sen. Obama's complimentary statements of the past two days.

On Tuesday, Obama's speech will - in addition to acknowledging the history of the moment and emphasizing change - will "go hard on McCain and blow a big kiss to Clinton," said one senior adviser.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.