Clinton gets over the line in Democrats' race
Published 08/06/2016 | 02:30
It was never going to be easy and it wasn't but, barring catastrophe, Hillary Clinton has gone where no woman has gone before and become the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major US political party.
Last night Democrats in six states were still to make their choices but it was reported that she had secured the number of pledged delegates and super delegates required to claim the Democratic nomination over rival Bernie Sanders.
The news ended a contest that ran longer than Clinton - or anyone else - anticipated. Her priority now must be to find a way to unite her party after an acrimonious campaign.
Understandably, the former Secretary of State said that she wouldn't declare outright victory before voters cast ballots and caucused in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
In a voice betraying more than a little emotion, she said: "According to the news, we are on the brink of an historic, historic, unprecedented moment," at a rally in Long Beach, California. "But we still have work to do, don't we? We have six elections tomorrow and we're going to fight hard for every single vote, especially right here in California."
For his part, the redoubtable Sanders indicated he's not going anywhere and will still fight on through to the July nominating convention in the hopes of winning over superdelegates, the more than 700 party officials, members of Congress, and others who aren't bound by the results of Ms Clinton, who herself conceded the Democratic Party's nomination to President Barack Obama exactly eight years ago.
Clinton added to her delegate total with victories over the weekend in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. She began Monday 23 delegates shy of the 2,383 she needed. By day's end, an updated survey of superdelegates who hadn't previously announced their allegiance showed she had crossed the threshold.
Even before the count confirming Ms Clinton's achievement had been released, the 68-year-old and her staff were making note of the milestone.
Responding to a question, Ms Clinton said at an event in Compton that her supporters "are passionate, they are committed, they have voted for me in great numbers across our country for many reasons.
"But among those reasons is their belief that having a woman president will make a great statement, a historic statement about what kind of country we are, what we stand for. It's really emotional."
For her staff, the import of the moment was beginning to settle in, according to spokesman Nick Merrill. "It's a really, really big deal and we're going to treat it as such," he said.
Ms Clinton has already engaged the general election battle against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
But Mr Sanders's continued fight for the nomination has stirred concerns about whether and how Ms Clinton can bring his backers into her fold and turn out Democratic voters in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio in November.
A self-described democratic socialist whose unexpected durability and magnetism with young and independent voters forced Ms Clinton's platform to the left, Sanders (74) may yet win California - a state Ms Clinton won handily in the final stage of her losing campaign in 2008.
While a loss in California won't change the outcome, it might nevertheless put a drag on Ms Clinton's attempts to rally the party and begin the presidential campaign on an upbeat note. The state's importance to Ms Clinton was clear from her decision to rearrange her schedule to spend much of the last week there as polls showed Mr Sanders closing what had been a 10 percentage point lead.
President Obama, who has been officially neutral in the Democratic race, may be ready to give his endorsement to Ms Clinton as soon as this week, according to a person familiar with the president's thinking.
The timing and venue for the endorsement hasn't been set, but Mr Obama is appearing at Democratic fundraisers tonight.
Ms Clinton has garnered over three million more votes than Mr Sanders and has won 29 primaries or caucuses, compared with 21 won by her opponent. In the delegate race, she has 291 more pledged delegates and 523 more superdelegates than Mr Sanders, a bigger margin than Barack Obama had in 2008.
Jonell McLain (70), of Ventura, California, a Sanders supporter, predicted a "divisive and incredibly painful" election this year while praising Mr Sanders for pushing Clinton to adopt more liberal stances.
"This campaign is rallying people and showing that we're ready for something more extreme," Ms McLain said. "I've never heard that - and I was around in the '60s."
Carlos Valdez (46) of Long Beach said he started out as a Clinton supporter, later gravitating to Mr Sanders, but will be there for Ms Clinton in November.
"I am a Democrat," Mr Valdez said. "I'm not going to be someone who supports Bernie and then says I'm going to toss my vote away."
Ms Clinton's team showed it had learned lessons from Mr Obama's upstart campaign, building a grassroots network, keeping the lid on infighting that caused her so many problems last time around and competing in every state, no matter whether it was winnable or not.
When things got tough, when conservatives were ganging up on her or when Mr Sanders was threatening to engulf her with sheer momentum, Ms Clinton rose to the occasion with a string of bravura performances.
And this time around she has been more relaxed about playing the "women's card". Although in recent weeks her campaign has played down the historic nature of her candidacy, it has not stopped her meeting mothers of gun victims or keeping up her demands for fair pay for women.
She still faces questions about her use of a private email server when she was at the State Department. And, for such a seasoned operator, she remains absurdly nervous of journalists.
Many believe that the tough campaign may have smoothed her edges and made her a stronger candidate.
She has shown herself to be strong on policy and international diplomacy and you can be sure these are at least two flanks she will have identified in concentrating all her fire on Donald Trump.