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Democratic Delegate Math: How Hillary Clinton Clinched The Nomination


Even Hillary Clinton seemed surprised last night when the Associated Press said she had enough delegates to become the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. That was supposed to happen tonight when results come in from six more states that are voting today, but the AP said Clinton didn't necessarily need those wins because she had secured the support of more superdelegates. Those are Democratic leaders who can vote however they want at the party's convention regardless of the outcomes of any elections.

NPR's Domenico Montanaro's here to walk us through what happened. Hey, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: We know the math. Bernie Sanders, though, says he is taking his fight all the way to the convention. His supporters say superdelegates can change their mind between now and then. So explain why we are counting them as if they're a done deal.

MONTANARO: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton was only 23 delegates short, so everyone widely expected her to cross that threshold tonight when polls closed at 8 o'clock in New Jersey. But you know, these superdelegates are people who have come out publicly declared for a candidate, so this is where Hillary Clinton is now called the presumptive nominee? She's not officially the nominee. That will only happen when the convention happens in July when all of the delegates do wind up voting.

These are not delegates who are undecided. These are folks who have decided to put their names on something to say that, I am in support of Hillary Clinton. And the AP does a wide canvas and a thorough job of finding out whether or not people are on board one side or the other.

Bernie Sanders happened to pick up a couple as well. Just he hasn't gotten anywhere near enough, and that's because we're so close to the end of the process here. And we've never really before been so focused on these pledged delegates, and that was because Hillary Clinton had such a big lead. But she's also on track to win with those tonight.

SHAPIRO: Do you expect tonight's results to end the debate?

MONTANARO: Probably not if...


MONTANARO: ...If any of our Twitter feeds are any indication.


MONTANARO: But I will say this though. What we know is that Clinton has a substantial lead with those pledged delegates. And when the Sanders campaign early on said that - don't count those superdelegates because the pledged delegates are what matter because that's the will of the people, that's going to be really key.

Well, tonight Hillary Clinton needs 214 of the 694 pledged delegates that remain. That's only 31 percent. She's almost certain to do that tonight.

SHAPIRO: All right, well, 8 years ago tonight, Hillary Clinton conceded the race to Barack Obama and called for party unity. Let's listen to a bit of that.


HILLARY CLINTON: I understand that we all know this has been a tough fight. But the Democratic Party is a family, and now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together around the ideals we share, the values we cherish and the country we love.

SHAPIRO: Doesn't sound like we should expect to hear a similar speech tonight from Bernie Sanders.



MONTANARO: Bernie Sanders last night put out a statement saying that he's taking it to the convention. He thought it was too early to suddenly judge that Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee. But you know, let's remember that Hillary Clinton on the night that Barack Obama was named the presumptive nominee, June 3, also did not drop out of the race. She did not concede - took her four days to make that decision.

Now, it's going to be up to Bernie Sanders on what timeline - how much he - how quickly he's willing to do this, whether or not he can cross that psychological threshold. What are the levels of his attacks? And the president of the United States may have some say in this if he winds up endorsing later this week, which is possible.

SHAPIRO: Also, Bernie Sanders comes to this from a very different place than Hillary Clinton did in 2008.

MONTANARO: No doubt about it because Hillary Clinton had all the incentive to get out of the race early and have some unity because she wanted to run again. No one expects that Bernie Sanders will want to run again. He may try to take the party and reshape it in his image, but how he lands this is going to be key to see.

SHAPIRO: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro, thanks.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.