Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton made history Tuesday night as the first woman to claim a major party’s presidential nomination. She delivered a final blow to her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by soundly beating him in California, New Jersey and two other states.
Democrat Clinton beat Sanders in California, 56 percent to 43 percent, thwarting Sanders’s last crucial opportunity to make the case to party leaders and national delegates that he would be the stronger nominee to take on billionaire Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, this fall. The Golden State, with 475 national delegates and a highly diverse population and economy, was deemed the ultimate prize in the 2016 primary season, and a loss by Clinton would have been a huge humiliation and setback for the party’s newly crowned standard-bearer.
Sanders vowed to carry on his now highly improbable liberal crusade, but at this point, his only hope is that somehow lightning will strike – such as an indictment coming out of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s misuse of personal email at the State Department -- and he could claim the party mantle. The 74-year-old veteran lawmaker told a large crowd in Santa Monica last night that he would “take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia.”
But Clinton destroyed Sanders’s last shred of hope by winning four of the six primary contests staged on a final Super Tuesday, including New Jersey, 63 percent to 37 percent; New Mexico, 52 percent to 48 percent, South Dakota, 51 percent to 49 percent, and California, 56 percent to 43 percent, according to complete but unofficial returns. Sanders’ only victories came in North Dakota and Montana.
In an emotional victory speech delivered in Brooklyn to a boisterous crowd, including many women and young girls savoring the moment, Clinton declared, “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone, the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party nominee.”
Her speech, delivered eight years to the day she was forced to concede the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, was laced with conciliatory lines directed at Sanders, the democratic socialist who surprised many with a campaign that nearly derailed Clinton’s candidacy, and stinging attacks on the bombastic and politically potent Trump.
“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief,” Clinton declared, continuing a line of attack she first unveiled in a major foreign policy speech in California last week. Clinton continued to portray Trump as a dangerous bigot and divider who threatens to undo decades of economic and social progress.
For his part, Trump last night vowed to make the campaign a referendum on Clinton’s email controversy, her ties to big money on Wall Street and questionable fundraising by the Clinton family’s global foundation while she was secretary of state.
“This election is not about the same old fights between Republicans and Democrats,” she told thousands of supporters gathered nearby her Brooklyn campaign headquarters. “It’s about who we are as Americans.”
As for Sanders, Clinton said, “I know it never feels good to put your heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in and to come up short. I know that feeling well.”
“But as we look ahead at the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that unites us,” she added. Clinton then proceeded to provide a laundry list of challenges reflecting Sanders call for income equality, reforms on Wall Street, campaign finance reform and other efforts.
“We all want an economy with more opportunity and less inequality, where Wall Street can never wreck Main Street again, she said, regarding the 2008 financial meltdown that ruined the economy. “We all want a government that listens to the people, not the power brokers, which means getting unaccountable money out of politics. And we all want a society that is tolerant, inclusive and fair.”
The finale of the Democratic primary campaign came on a busy day following the declaration by the Associated Press late Monday that Clinton had clinched the nomination by reaching the magic number of 2,383 “pledged” and “super” delegates to the national convention this summer. Sanders and his aides complained that the announcement was premature, and that nothing was official until the convention meets.
The latest tally shows that the former first lady and secretary of state has 2,755 delegates – including 2,184 pledged to vote for her and 571 super delegates who are free to change their minds at any time.
Sanders only hope now is to persuade hundreds of super delegates to switch their allegiance from Clinton to him. But so far, he has been unable to persuade a single super delegate to abandon Clinton, despite polls showing he does better than she does in hypothetical polling matchup against Trump.
As Clinton claimed her historic victory, senior party leaders including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), began stepping up effort to unify the fractured party, fearing that many of Sanders’s most loyal young supporters would refuse to back Clinton in the general election.
According to The Washington Post, Obama indicated that he was eager to help broker peace between Clinton and Sanders and start campaigning for the party’s nominee as soon as possible. The president made calls to both Democratic candidates Tuesday night and will meet with Sanders on Thursday.