Why the Hell Did the Media Call the Democratic Race for Clinton Now?

Hillary Clinton is the first female presumptive nominee for president for a major political party in US history. (Hillary Clinton/Flickr)

Six states--California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, and North and South Dakota--are voting today. And a week from today, the last primary of the 2016 election cycle will be held, in Washington, DC. So, millions of votes are about to be cast.

But that didn't stop the Associated Press from dropping a bombshell last night: They announced that, by their count, Hillary Clinton was already the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party.

Businessman Donald Trump has been the Republicans' presumptive nominee for about a month, since his main remaining competitor, Senator Ted Cruz, withdrew.

But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still fighting a fierce race with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who insists he isn't dropping out and says he's willing to contest the results at the Democratic National Convention in late July.

The question on everyone's minds is: WHAT THE HELL?

How did the Dems' nominee get called before the primary was over?

There wasn't a single election or caucus on Monday, so how did Hillary Clinton clinch the magic number of delegates to be the presumptive nominee?

For two reasons:

1. Puerto Rico voted on Sunday. But it has taken awhile for those votes to be counted and their delegates to be awarded. Clinton beat Sanders badly in Puerto Rico, and last night the AP was able to project how many delegates she got. She wound up with 36 regular delegates plus 7 superdelegates, and Sanders got 20 regular delegates. That alone put her right at the cusp of the 2,383 needed for the nomination, counting superdelegates. (More on that in a sec.)

2. They surveyed superdelegates to see who they're going to vote for. AP and NBC News both reported that she has enough delegates total to be the presumptive nominee, even before these primaries are over.

Wait, wait, what are superdelegates again?

Superdelegates, something only Democrats have, are political leaders--like sitting governors, members of Congress, previous presidents and vice presidents, and party officials. Like President Obama, for example.

There are 712 superdelegates, and they can vote however they want, meaning they can match the state's popular vote or the overall popular vote or just pick the candidate they personally prefer.

Two key things to keep in mind about superdelegates:

1. They often decide who they're supporting at some point in the primary, but like any voter, they can switch allegiances up until they formally vote at the Democratic National Convention.

2. They don't formally vote until July 25th. So all we have now is who they are likely to vote for. And not just likely--the AP asked superdelegates how staunch their support is. They say it's clear that Clinton has enough devoted, unequivocal superdelgates planning to vote for her that that's that.

So, does that mean Bernie Sanders still has a chance at the nomination?

Bernie Sanders campaigning in Los Angeles before the California primary. (RevDills/Flickr)

In terms of math, no.

Today's primaries in California, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Montana will decide the pledged delegate total, save for the District of Columbia. Clinton is projected to do well in those states.

Sanders would not only have to win the pledged delegates in the upcoming races by more than 83%, but he would also have to convince a lot of superdelegates who have already pledged to support Clinton to come to his side before July 25th.

Is there ANY hope for Sanders?

Sure. The only real hope Sanders has is if Clinton gets indicted, or charged with a crime, for her controversial use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.

But Clinton staunchly affirms that she did nothing wrong. The FBI case over her email server was dismissed.

Do we usually have "presumptive" nominees?

This election overall has been unique in many ways. But this is far from the first time a presumptive nominee has been declared before every vote has been tallied.

In 2008 when President Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, he was declared the winner weeks before the superdelegates cast their votes at the party convention. That race was even closer in every way: the popular vote, the number of states won, and the pledged delegate count.

After he won the lion's share of pledged delegates from Montana and South Dakota, a rush of superdelegates switched to Obama. That brought him to the winning number, and Clinton conceded.

Why "presumptive"?

As for why we say "presumptive nominee" over just nominee despite Clinton and Trump both seeming to have wrapped up the primary is to be accurate and specific. It means it's looking clear that this person is their party's nominee, but it hasn't been formalized yet.

It's done in every election in the past decade.

It requires a candidate to be at the mathematical target, or to be the party's last serious challenger. Both of which apply to both Clinton and Trump now.

What do people think?

People who have been closely tracking the delegate math weren't surprised by this call. If anything, they were surprised only by the timing of the AP's announcement--the night before 6 states, including the largest state in the country, voted.

Clinton supporters were excited to hear that for the first time in history a woman would be a major party's nominee.

Including Nancy Pelosi, a congresswoman from California and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, who just endorsed Clinton.

But Clinton supporters also worry that the announcement that she had it in the bag would keep some of her supporters from bothering to go to the polls today.

And there's a vocal group that is suspicious of both the AP's count and the timing of it being released the night before a big #PrimaryDay.

This is mostly addressed by one simple factor: math. With a sprinkling of historical context.

Meanwhile, many Sanders supporters, especially in California, are fired up about continuing to support him.

What does it mean for turnout?

A Clinton supporter in California. (Hillary Clinton/Flickr)

There is definitely concern that this will hurt voter turnout. The Clinton campaign has chosen not to celebrate until after the election because they don't want Americans not to vote.

Sanders' campaign is also urging people to get to the polls to continue the movement and to challenge Clinton for as long as he can.

It will be hard to know what impact the announcement will actually have on the outcome of today's votes.

What can I do?


If you are upset with this call, if you're an eligible voter in one of today's six primary states or in DC, you do still have the chance to get out there and make your voice heard by voting. And you should.

Remember, there is a lot more at stake in this election than just the presidential candidates. Often, crucial policies that affect your life are created at the local and state levels, so stay aware and involved.

This article was written by Allison Hollender and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.