Hillary Clinton Declared the Presumptive Nominee for President

The Democratic race is about to end. Barring something truly extraordinary, Hillary Clinton will be declared the presumptive nominee for president by the news media, probably on Tuesday after the results in New Jersey. It will happen even if she loses every remaining contest, and it will probably happen before the polls even close in California (no doubt igniting the fury of some Bernie Sanders supporters).

How is she going to clinch?

Mrs. Clinton has 2,310 delegates, according to The Associated Press, putting her just 73 short of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination.

She will cover at least half the distance this weekend, when Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands hold caucuses worth a combined 79 delegates.

She would then go over the top with New Jersey, not long after 8 p.m. on Tuesday, as Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight has pointed out. The state is worth 142 delegates, and Mrs. Clinton will be awarded many of them when the polls close.

Isn’t she winning only because of superdelegates?

Yes and no. Yes, those 2,310 delegates include superdelegates.

But no, she’s not winning because of superdelegates. In fact, superdelegates are basically Mr. Sanders’s only hope at this stage. (Many would have to change their minds.)

That’s because Mrs. Clinton has effectively locked up the race for pledged delegates — those awarded based on votes cast in actual contests.

She leads Mr. Sanders in pledged delegates by 54 percent to 46 percent.

Mrs. Clinton earned this advantage by winning more states, and by bigger margins in bigger states. She has also done better in primaries than caucuses: Over all, she leads by 14 points in the national popular vote, 56 to 42 percent.

If there were only pledged delegates, Mrs. Clinton would clinch the nomination with 33 percent of the vote in the remaining contests. This is why it’s fair to say that she doesn’t need to win any remaining states: The Democrats award delegates proportionally, so she needs only around one-third of the remaining vote.

Mrs. Clinton has won at least 33 percent of the vote in every primary except Mr. Sanders’s home state, Vermont. She’s also a big favorite in three of the largest remaining contests: New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. California is more competitive, but barring a catastrophe for her, she’s not going to lose by 30 points.

Why count the superdelegates? Couldn’t they switch?

Well, yes. They can vote for whomever they want at the convention. That’s why Mrs. Clinton will be characterized as the “presumptive” nominee; she wouldn’t actually become the nominee until the vote at the convention.

But superdelegates count like any others, and the news media includes them in determining whether a candidate has clinched the nomination.

News organizations projected Barack Obama as the presumptive nominee in 2008 on this basis — in fact, he went over the top with the support of 4.5 superdelegates. Donald Trump did the same thing last week thanks to the support of additional unpledged delegates.

What did Bernie Sanders need to do to win the primaries?

A lot. Mr. Sanders trails in pledged delegates by about eight percentage points. Because the Democratic system is proportional, he basically needed to improve by about eight points in every state to be tied today.

That Michigan win, for instance? He actually needed to win there by around 10 points, not two. Iowa? He needed to win by eight, not fight to a draw.

Even that interpretation is generous: It supposes that Mr. Sanders could have expanded his margin by eight points in caucus states and Vermont, where I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect he could have done all that much better. He probably needed to narrow Mrs. Clinton’s margin by more than eight points in the South, where there was more room for improvement.

If Mr. Sanders had made eight-point gains across the board, he would have flipped Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri, Connecticut and Kentucky. It would have left Mrs. Clinton with the former Confederate states and a handful of narrow victories in states like Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Arizona.

The real lesson here is that Mrs. Clinton’s sweep of the South all but precluded a victory for Mr. Sanders. If he couldn’t have done better in the 11 states of the former Confederacy (and remember, the above supposes he does eight points better), Mr. Sanders basically would have needed to sweep the rest of the country to win the election.

Would he have won without closed primaries?

Mr. Sanders was generally hurt by closed primaries. By our estimates, he did about 3.5 points worse in such contests. But most states aren’t closed, so Mr. Sanders wasn’t hurt that badly over all. And Mrs. Clinton was hurt more by caucuses, where she did about 10 points worse, according to the same model.

If every contest in the country had been an open primary, Mrs. Clinton’s delegate lead would have grown. She would have lost ground in some of the contests, gained ground in the states with large numbers of anti-Obama registered Democrats (Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky), and gained lots of ground in Western caucuses — where Mr. Sanders earned most of his big delegate hauls.

Over all, Mrs. Clinton would have about a 12-point lead in pledged delegates if every state had an open primary, according to our estimates. She would already be the presumptive nominee.

You’re ignoring the voter fraud!

O.K., time to cut this off.

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