WASHINGTON — Barack Obama is preparing to claim victory in the Democratic presidential nominating contest after next Tuesday's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota.
In a question and answer session Wednesday night with reporters on his campaign plane between Denver and Chicago, the Illinois senator dismissed the idea that rival Hillary Clinton's stated willingness to take her fight for the nomination to the party convention in late August would matter.
"When Dukakis won the nomination, you know, Jesse (Jackson) was still running until the convention," Obama said. "When Bill Clinton was running, Jerry Brown was still technically in it. As far as I can tell, this is fairly standard fare."
Obama said the nominee would be clear "after Tuesday." "I am sure we will have discussions with Senator Clinton and her team," he said.
He predicted that after the last primaries, "whatever remaining super delegates will make their decisions pretty quickly after that."
"If we've got the number of delegates to secure the nomination," Obama said, "then I'm the nominee."
"It is technically not over until we have the number of delegates that are needed to secure the nomination. Once we have that number, then we'll focus on the general election," he said.
As of Thursday morning, the Obama campaign estimated that it was 45 delegates shy of the 2,026 delegates needed to secure the nomination. That threshold could rise slightly depending on the resolution of the dispute involving how to count the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries, which were held in violation of Democratic National Committee rules.
Party lawyers Wednesday indicated that each delegation could get half its votes at the convention, and the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee is to meet on Saturday to decide the issue. Clinton's campaign could appeal that decision to the party's credentials committee at the national convention Aug. 25-28 in Denver, or it could challenge the decision in court.
Obama, however, said Wednesday night that he didn't think a lawsuit challenging how the disputed primaries are counted would go far. "There have already been two of them, and they have been thrown out of court," he said.
In any case, Obama said he was confident that resolving whether and how to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations wouldn't jeopardize his lead.