After Big New Jersey Win, Clinton Claims the Nomination

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Yesterday the Associated Press announced that, adding together pledged delegates and unpledged but publicly committed superdelegates, Hillary Clinton had won the majority needed for the presidential nomination. But since superdelegates can change their minds at any time, there remained going into today’s climactic Democratic primaries a theoretical chance for Bernie Sanders to win by passing Clinton in pledged delegates and then flipping the “supers.” According to Philip Bump of the Washington Post, however, Sanders would need to win 72 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to catch up with Clinton in pledged delegates. Given the Democratic Party’s proportional delegate allocation rules, that would mean massive landslide wins — on average — in New Jersey, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Montana, and, most of all, California. 

Well, Sanders did not, to put it mildly, win a massive landslide victory in the second-largest state voting today, New Jersey. In fact, he’s on pace to lose the Garden State by more than 25 percentage points. He’s not winning a landslide victory in South Dakota, either — despite favorable demographics, he’ll probably lose that contest. 

Accordingly, even before polls closed in California, Hillary Clinton formally claimed the nomination and devoted much of her time to making a strong, and even bipartisan, case against Donald J. Trump. 

The ball will soon be in Bernie Sanders’s court. If he wins California, he could claim some sort of nebulous symbolic victory and again call on superdelegates to overturn the primaries and caucuses and make him the rather ironic Man of the People based on general-election polls. Or he could stop talking about contesting the nomination and instead talk about demanding platform planks and perhaps future changes in the rules of the nomination process. Or he could throw in the towel. As Eric Levitz noted, there seems to be a split in the leadership of the Sanders campaign over what to do. 

But, as of now, any talk of Bernie having a path to the nomination that involves voters rather than the superdelegates his supporters claim to disdain is formally a thing of the past rather than the present or the future. After a remarkable campaign, the voices even within his orbit calling on him to pack it in will likely drown out the Bernie or Bust faction that has been so loud up until now. Whatever he decides, the nomination contest is over. And Clinton can only hope, as she said tonight, that he comes around quickly to her view: “This is the time for us to come together.”