Hillary Clinton doesn’t need New Jersey or California. She’s locked up the Democratic nomination for president already, the Associated Press reported Monday night in a surprise announcement on the eve of the primaries.
With the newswire’s report, which was quickly confirmed by CBS News and NBC News, Clinton becomes the first woman to be in line for a major-party nomination in the history of the United States. Clinton had been expected to clinch that distinction by Tuesday evening, after the polls closed in six states, including populous states like California and New Jersey. She was well ahead of her sole opponent, Bernie Sanders, in the delegate count Monday, and needed roughly two dozen to qualify for the nomination.
According to the AP’s report, Clinton has 1,812 delegates and 571 superdelegates in her corner, which brings her to the magic number of 2,383:
Clinton, the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady, reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic nominee on Monday with a decisive weekend victory in Puerto Rico and a burst of last-minute support from superdelegates. Those are party officials and officeholders, many of them eager to wrap up the primary amid preference polls showing her in a tightening race with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Clinton fans were overjoyed on Twitter: The first woman president, succeeding the first black president, would be historic indeed. In remarks earlier Monday, Clinton herself acknowledged it was “emotional” to see supporters excited at the prospect of a woman president. But based on her campaign’s reaction to the news, Clinton is not ready to claim the nomination so quickly. She spent Monday engaged in a major get-out-of-the-vote effort, in an attempt to seize as many of the 694 delegates up for grabs Tuesday as possible:
Clinton does not want her supporters to turn complacent and stay home at the polls Tuesday. Sanders has repeatedly stated that he will take his campaign to the Democrats’ July party convention, and Clinton will want as decisive and overwhelming a delegate tally as possible to convince him his time is up. It could also help combat claims from diehard Sanders supporters that the race is rigged. If Clinton adds to her 3-million-vote lead over Sanders, perhaps it will quiet their fury.
On Monday night, the Sanders campaign rejected the AP’s call entirely, pointing out that the tally includes hundreds of superdelegates, whom Sanders still hopes to persuade to come over to his side. But a switch on that scale would be unprecedented.
Sanders’s reluctance to drop out of the race persists despite ever-louder calls for party unity. President Obama is reportedly preparing to endorse Clinton. Donald Trump has been his party’s presumptive nominee for more than one month, and some Clinton supporters worry that Sanders’s persistence will distract her focus from the general election. Her campaign did not mention Sanders or Trump as it fundraised off the news Monday night. An email to supporters calling for cash ahead of Tuesday’s primaries was all about Hillary. The opening line? “So this just happened” atop a photo of AP’s breaking-news tweet.