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June 07, 2016

Clinton takes New Jersey to clinch historic nomination

Former secretary of state becomes first woman to top presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party

The voters of New Jersey on Tuesday played a primary role in boosting the historic candidacy of Hillary Clinton for president.

The former secretary of state won the Garden State, the Associated Press reported, to become Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president over her spirited rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, making her the first woman to top the ticket of a major U.S. political party. 

Despite trailing Clinton significantly in California, the night's biggest prize, Sanders told his supporters there early Wednesday morning that he will "continue the fight" in the last primary of the Democratic campaign next week in Washington, D.C.

At a rollicking rally in Santa Monica, Sanders said that after that election, "we take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia."

The Democratic National Convention takes place here next month.

That's where Hillary Clinton will accept the Democratic nomination for president. She has the delegates needed to claim the nomination, and declared victory on Tuesday night in New York.

"I am pretty good at arithmetic," Sanders said. "I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight, but we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate."

Clinton's win in New Jersey came a day after she secured the 2,383 delegates she needed, according to an Associated Press tally. Her total includes pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses, as well as superdelegates — the party officials and officeholders who can back a candidate of their choosing.

Dressed in all white and joined by her husband and daughter, she greeted supporters Tuesday night before taking the stage to address supporters at a victory party in Brooklyn, calling her nomination a historic moment for all women.

"It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now," she said. "But don't worry we are not smashing this one."

"Tonight's victory is not about one person," she continued, referencing the efforts and sacrifices of the men and women who pushed women's rights at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. "It belongs to generations."

Then Clinton took direct aim at Donald Trump, calling out the billionaire for divisive rhetoric and casting his "Make America Great Again" slogan as "code for let's take America backward."

Clinton said Trump was "temperamentally unfit" to be president, citing Trump's attacks on a federal judge, reporters and women.

"He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt in wounds and reminding us daily just how great he is," Clinton said. "Well, we believe we should lift each other up, not tear each other down."

Before she spoke, her campaign ran a gauzy video highlighting the achievements of women who helped clear a path.

She was wasting no time moving toward the general election. Her campaign announced that she would make stops next week in Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that will be pivotal in November.

At Camden County Democratic headquarters in Cherry Hill, the room roared when the race was called for Clinton.

“People asked in New Jersey still mattered. Today we emphatically turned that question into an exclamation point,” said Derek Rosen, Clinton campaign spokesman.

Gwen Devera, vice president of the Voorhees Democrats and a liaison to the Filipino-American community, beamed as she ate from the buffet following a day of phone calls and organizing rides to the polls.

“The mayor of Voorhees signed me up when I was new. I’ve been a Democrat since 1988,” she said.

Sanders was hoping to upset Clinton in California, with each eager to effectively end their primary battle on a high note. Clinton won New Mexico, while Sanders won in Montana. Other contests were being held in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Sanders had hoped a victory would help in his so-far-unsuccessful bid to get Clinton superdelegates to switch their support. Asked on NBC whether he was continuing that effort, he said, "We are. We're on the phone right now."

The superdelegates who were counted in Clinton's total told the AP they were unequivocally supporting her.

The former secretary of state, first lady and senator secured support Tuesday from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents a California district. And Clinton will soon have help on the campaign trail from President Barack Obama. Her 2008 foe is to endorse her as early as this week, a move meant to signal to Sanders and his supporters that it's time to unify behind her.

Obama and Sanders spoke by phone Sunday. While the content of the call is unknown, Sanders' campaign has appeared to slightly soften its rhetoric since the call.

Dianne Feinstein of California said Sanders and Clinton should "march on to a general election together," and any Sanders plan to keep fighting until the Democratic National Convention "is going to make that much more difficult."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that for Sanders "I think the math is unforgiving."

Sanders' achievements have been remarkable for a candidate who was unknown to most Americans before the campaign. He has drawn massive crowds to rallies around the country and built a fundraising juggernaut based largely on small donations online. The Vermont senator has been particularly popular with young voters, an important piece of the Democratic coalition.

Still, Clinton's victory has been broadly decisive. She leads Sanders by more than 3 million cast votes.

After her win in New Jersey, Clinton had 2,433 delegates to Sanders' 1,606. That count includes both pledged delegates and superdelegates.

At Bernie Sanders’ South Jersey headquarters in Collingswood on Tuesday night, before the race was called, the atmosphere was like a college party after the keg had gone dry, with canvassers heading home and staff milling around, barefoot or in sandals, outside on the lawn.

Later, Jonathan Taylor, spokesman for the Sanders campaign, said the outcome reflected “the numbers we’ve been seeing for quite some time. But I’m extremely proud of the effort out volunteers put in here."

Taylor had said earlier that phone bank volunteers were shifting to making calls and texts to California, where polls are open until 11 p.m. EDT.

“The AP thing really motivated out volunteers today. It’s a movement. That’s why we’re moving on to California,” said Taylor. Volunteers placed hundreds of thousands of calls and texts in an effort to turn out New Jersey voters, he added.

An online story from the political site, The Hill, which quoted a top campaign official with the Clinton campaign as saying Sanders deserves a say at the Democratic convention, which starts on July 25 in Philadelphia, both pleased and annoyed Taylor.

“It’s a good thing, but we have earned a decent amount of say and influence,” said Taylor. “I think they don’t need to offer us a place at the table. We’ve earned it.”


Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey in Compton, California, and Hope Yen, Stephen Ohlemacher, Lisa Lerer and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. PhillyVoice reporter Kevin Shelly also contributed to this report.