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Clinton Marks Historic Win As Sanders Vows To Fight On

Update at 6:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic primary in California, The Associated Press reports.

Clinton made history Tuesday as the first woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major party in the U.S. But rival Bernie Sanders vowed to continue his fight at least until next week's primary in the District of Columbia.

The Vermont senator's hope of an unlikely resurgence was largely predicated on an upset victory in California, the biggest primary prize in the country, but he trailed Clinton badly. In addition to California, she notched wins in New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota while Sanders won the North Dakota caucuses and the Montana primary.

Even before all of the states' polls had closed, Clinton was embracing the historic nature of her win after she officially crossed the superdelegate threshold to become the nominee late Monday evening, according to The Associated Press.

"Tonight's victory is not about one person; it belongs to generations of women and men who sacrificed and made this moment possible," Clinton told a cheering crowd in Brooklyn, N.Y., exactly eight years after she fell short in her first quest for the presidency to Barack Obama.

She thanked Sanders for the "vigorous debate" he and his supporters have spurred on economic inequality, calling it "good for the Democratic Party."

But she was eager to look past the tougher-than-expected primary fight to the general election against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president," she declared. "He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt into wounds and reminding us daily just how great he is."

"When Trump says, 'Let's Make America Great Again,' that's code for 'Let's take America backward,'" she said of his famed slogan.

Going into Tuesday, Clinton already had a wide lead over Sanders in both pledged delegates and the popular vote but had not expected to — or wanted to — cross that delegate threshold until Tuesday evening.

The preemptive declaration by AP also upset the Sanders campaign and his supporters, who are hoping to convince enough superdelegates to back his campaign before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next month. He had argued that he is the stronger candidate in polls, but Clinton's campaign has argued that his advantage over Trump is because Sanders hasn't yet sustained the kind of attacks she has faced.

Sanders addressed supporters in California late Tuesday night on the West Coast, remaining defiant that he was not yet ready to end his fight.

"When we began this campaign a little over a year ago, we were considered to be a fringe campaign, but over the last year I think that has changed just a little bit," he said.

Sanders emphasized that they could not "allow right wing Republicans to control our government, and that is especially true with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate." And while he said he had called Clinton to congratulate her on her wins — a revelation met with boos by his supporters — he also made clear he was remaining in the race, at least for the time being.

"We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.," he said. His campaign announced earlier in the evening they would hold a rally Thursday in the nation's capital. Sanders said after that they would "take our fight" to the convention in Philadelphia — though it was unclear if that would still be as an active candidate. He plans to return to his home in Burlington, Vt., after tonight.

"I am pretty good at arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight," he acknowledged. The New York Times also reported that the Sanders campaign planned to lay off at least half of his campaign staff come Wednesday.

The White House announced late Tuesday night that President Obama had called both Clinton and Sanders and congratulated Clinton on securing the necessary delegates. They also announced that, "at Senator Sanders' request, the President and Senator Sanders will meet at the White House on Thursday," a move by the president to listen to some of the candidate's policy concerns with the party while also possibly trying to convince him to step aside to begin to heal wounds before November.

Trump, who had no opposition in the night's GOP primaries, used his perch Tuesday to debut a more focused general election message — something that will comfort Republicans who were on the defensive over Trump's comments about the Mexican heritage of a judge presiding over the case involving his controversial Trump University.

Eschewing his usual off-the-cuff style for prepared remarks he read from a teleprompter, Trump told supporters gathered at one of his golf courses in New York that "tonight we close one chapter in history and begin another."

"I will make you proud of our party and our movement," Trump said in a speech that was far more toned-down than usual. "Some people say I am too much of a fighter, but my preference is always peace."

He made a direct plea to Sanders supporters who he said had been "left out" by a "rigged" superdelegate system, and he debuted new attacks against his likely Democratic rival.

"The Clintons have turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves," Trump said, noting that he will give a major speech hitting the Democrat early next week.

National Democrats will surely increase the pressure on Sanders to end his campaign after Tuesday's contests — especially if he does lose in California. Clinton's campaign and other Democrats point out that at this point, her lead over Sanders is nearly three times larger than President Obama's was over Clinton in their 2008 primary fight. With her wins Tuesday, she also claimed a majority of the pledged delegates throughout the campaign cycle.

But with Clinton's speech and in a video unveiled earlier Tuesday, she was already looking ahead to November and reminding voters that she has broken one of the thickest glass ceilings in political history.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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