(CNN) -Barack Obama says the general election will begin after Tuesday, when Montana and South Dakota close out the Democratic primary season.
And when asked by reporters last night aboard his campaign plane if he will be the winner at that point, the Senator from Illinois said "I believe so."
By CNN's count, Obama is currently 48 delegates shy of the 2,026 now needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. And he's 198 delegates ahead of his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.
Asked by reporters how he would handle the end game with Clinton, Obama said "I am sure we will have discussions with Senator Clinton and her team. Unless we have, you know it's technically not over until we have the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination. Once we have that number, we will focus on the general election."
Obama made his comments while flying back home to Chicago from Denver, following a three day campaign swing in New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Those three Rocky Mountain States are all considered battleground or swing states and should be up for grabs in the November presidential election.