WASHINGTON — It's over. Almost.
South Dakota and Montana hold their primaries today, the last two contests in the fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination — races that began five months ago to the day with the Iowa caucuses. And all signs are that Obama could clinch the nomination today — or within days of the final primaries.
Obama, bidding to become the first black major party nominee in history, gained 5.5 delegates Monday, including Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a member of the House leadership who scheduled a formal announcement today.
Obama said he would begin thinking about a vice presidential running mate "the day after I have gotten that last delegate needed to officially claim the nomination."
Obama also said he has asked Clinton for a meeting on her terms "once the dust settles" from their race.
"The sooner we can bring the party together, the sooner we can start focusing on John McCain in November," Obama said. He said he spoke with Clinton on Sunday when he called to congratulate her on winning the Puerto Rico primary.
Clinton gave no public hint of quitting the race, and she has said repeatedly she might continue her candidacy even beyond the end of the primaries.
But her husband, former President Bill Clinton, strongly suggested otherwise. "This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind," he said Monday as he worked for his wife in South Dakota.
The former first lady planned to hold an end-of-primary rally in New York tonight, inviting donors and offering to fly field staffers from around the country to attend.