Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, easily defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Jersey tonight—and all but definitely captured the Democratic ballot line in November, eight years to the day since she suspended her campaign against then-Sen. Barack Obama.
News organizations called the Garden State contest for the former New York senator shortly after polls closed in the Garden State at 8 pm, with early estimates awarding her almost two-thirds of the vote. The Associated Press noted Monday night that, thanks to a weekend victory in Puerto Rico and 571 superdelegates who have endorsed the former first lady, Ms. Clinton had already attained the 2,383-delegate threshold and become the first female presidential nominee from either party.
Mr. Sanders’ camp attacked the AP’s pronouncement as premature, noting that the superdelegates—party insiders, most of them current and former elected officials, who support the candidate of their choosing—won’t vote for a nominee until the convention in Philadelphia next month. Theoretically, this would leave the self-described democratic socialist with time to lobby superdelegates to abandon the establishment favorite and back him instead.
But the triumph in New Jersey put Ms. Clinton within inches of claiming the majority of the 4,053 available pledged delegates, the representatives primary voters elect to send to the July party conclave. While it wouldn’t be completely impossible for the Vermont lawmaker to persuade hundreds upon hundreds of superdelegates onto his side, it would put him in the awkward position of asking them to resist the wishes of most of the Democratic electorate.
The victorious candidate will celebrate with supporters tonight at a rally in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, just miles from where she launched her campaign on Roosevelt Island almost exactly a year ago.
Mr. Sanders may yet triumph in North Dakota and Montana, which vote today and which resemble the predominantly white rural states he has won so far. He even has a chance to capture California, the biggest prize of the Democratic primary season, where he has campaigned heavily and closed in on Ms. Clinton in the polls in recent weeks.
But the underdog’s path to the nomination now appears all but sealed off, with Mr. Obama even signaling he is ready to begin campaigning for the woman he defeated in 2008.
Updated to reflect the latest vote totals, and Ms. Clinton’s victory in South Dakota