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Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 23:34 UK

Democrats await key Obama speech

Barack Obama, file pic
Mr Obama has been preparing for the historic nomination acceptance speech

Barack Obama is set to address US Democrats at the party's national convention, a day after being chosen as their candidate for the White House.

Mr Obama, the first African-American to be nominated for president by a major US party, will formally accept his historic candidacy in Denver, Colorado.

On Wednesday, he was resoundingly endorsed by ex-President Bill Clinton.

Mr Obama's speech comes on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's historic "I have a dream" address.

Martin Luther King III, the civil rights leader's oldest son, is due to address the convention after a video tribute to his father's life.

Former Vice-President Al Gore is also due to speak on Thursday, along with Democratic National Committee Chairman Governor Howard Dean, but the focus will be on Mr Obama.

The Illinois senator has won over many critics, analysts say, and is aiming to consolidate his standing within his party.

Meanwhile, Republican officials say their contender, John McCain, has chosen his running-mate, but the person's identity has not yet been announced.

Mr McCain is due to hold a 10,000-strong rally in the swing state of Ohio on Friday, at which it was expected he would present his vice-presidential candidate.

Rumours swirled on Thursday amid reports that a front-runner for the role, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, had abruptly cancelled several appointments for the next day.

Coronation grandeur

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the final day of her party's convention as the crowds gathered inside the Invesco stadium.

Mr Obama's much-anticipated speech, scheduled for 2015 (0215 GMT), will be the highlight of the party's carefully choreographed four-day event.

It is likely to have all the pomp and grandeur of a coronation, says the BBC's Matthew Price at the Denver Bronco's stadium.

Questions remain as to whether Mr Obama can cement his standing within his own party, and reach out to those parts of the electorate that are yet to be convinced by him, our correspondent notes.

Hours before her husband publicly gave Mr Obama his unequivocal backing at the convention on Wednesday, in a moment of high drama his defeated rival Hillary Clinton cut short a roll-call vote to endorse Mr Obama's candidacy by acclamation.

'New approach'

Mr Obama made a surprise appearance on stage on Wednesday after his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, accepted his own nomination for vice-president in a speech that was sharply critical of Mr McCain.

Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States
Former President Bill Clinton

"We want to open up this convention to make sure that everybody who wants to come can join in the party, and join in the effort to take America back," Mr Obama said.

Mr Biden stressed the need for a new approach to help Americans struggling to make ends meet and to change US foreign policy in the rest of the world.

The 65-year-old foreign policy expert was chosen as vice-presidential candidate by 47-year-old Mr Obama partly on account of his experience.

Clinton factor

In an address that was bound to be closely scrutinised for signs of discord, Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, struck a firmly conciliatory note and stressed that he believed Mr Obama was ready to be president.

He said he was proud of his wife, Hillary - who had battled Mr Obama for the Democratic nomination - but that her supporters should now back Mr Obama.

Justin Webb

It was stunning - a moment of brilliantly produced political theatre and a moment to cherish forever
BBC North America editor Justin Webb, on the Obama nomination

"Barack Obama is ready to honour the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," said Mr Clinton. "Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States."

In American political parlance Mr Clinton "delivered", and may now find himself playing a higher-profile role in the campaign to come, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton had halted a roll call vote - in which each state, in alphabetical order, declares how many votes were cast for each candidate in the primaries - to call for Mr Obama's nomination by acclamation.

In a powerful show of unity, she said: "Let's declare together in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate."

The presidential election on 4 November will pit Mr Obama against Mr McCain, who will be nominated next week at his party's convention in St Paul, Minnesota.

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Rocky Mountain News Obama makes history as Democratic Party nominee 139 - 2 hrs ago
Nashville City Paper DNC Notebook: Biden slams McCain, Tennessee Dems enthusiastic - 4 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Obama set for historic speech - 5 hrs ago
KABC Los Angeles Obama to claim nomination on historic day - 5 hrs ago
CNN Michelle Obama on Being Future First Lady; Joe Biden's Background; Gustav Tears Through Caribbean - 5 hrs ago

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