BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Hillary Clinton cemented her status as the first woman to become presumptive presidential nominee of a major American political party on Tuesday night, when the Associated Press projected her the winner in New Jersey’s Democratic primary.
Clinton’s victory in the Garden State ensures she will have more pledged delegates, unbound superdelegates and overall voters than her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She declared victory at a New York City rally in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone: the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee,” Clinton told her supporters. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”
The former first lady, senator and secretary of state technically earned her status on Monday, after the AP and multiple other media outlets projected that she had obtained firm commitments from enough Democratic superdelegates to secure the nomination at the party’s convention next month. However, the AP call was criticized as a “rush to judgment” by the Sanders campaign. Even Clinton’s own team argued that the real “milestone” would come after she secured a majority of the pledged delegates and primary voters.
After the results were announced in New Jersey, the AP projected Clinton the winner in California, New Mexico and South Dakota. Sanders scored victories in North Dakota and Montana. Sanders had pinned his hopes on winning California, but even a Sanders sweep would not have affected the overall outcome of the race.
Clinton’s victory came just three days after the 97th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote the following year in 1920. Clinton said in her speech that her mother was born on the same day as the amendment’s passage. Her win was also eight years to the day after she conceded the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama, with a speech in which Clinton famously declared that her supporters helped put “18 million cracks” in the “glass ceiling.” She recalled that concession speech Tuesday evening.
“It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now. But don’t worry, we’re not smashing this one,” Clinton quipped.
Clinton also invoked another key moment in feminist history. She noted that the first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, also took place in New York, in 1848.
Earlier in the evening, her team released the video that played as an introduction to her remarks. It included footage from the women’s suffrage movement, interspersed with footage of female politicians and Clinton supporters. It concluded with a call to “keep making history.”
Sanders also spoke on Tuesday evening at an event in California, where polls showed a tight race between him and Clinton. Though it was clear before any results were announced on Tuesday that it would be almost impossible for Sanders to earn more delegates than Clinton, he has pointed to national polls that show he would perform better against the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Sanders urged superdelegates who support Clinton to switch sides before the Democratic National Convention next month.
In his speech on Tuesday night, Sanders indicated he has no plans to drop out before the District of Columbia primary on June 14.
“Next Tuesday, we continue the fight in the last primary in Washington, D.C.,” Sanders said.
Sanders also ripped into Trump and suggested the movement created by his campaign was bigger than himself and would continue through at least the Democratic Party convention next month.
“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C. And then we take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia,” Sanders said.
Clinton praised Sanders in her remarks on Tuesday.
“I want to congratulate Sen. Sanders for the extraordinary campaign he has run,” she said, calling their primary battle “very good for the Democratic Party and for America.”
Inside Clinton’s event, her supporters were excited by the significance of her win. Samson Ogunloye, a 70-year-old researcher at Columbia University, described it as a “historic night.”
“I really love it,” Ogunloye said. “After over 200 years, it’s about time.”
Brooklynite Karen Kietzman, 58, described Clinton’s pioneering role as “very important,” though she added, “That’s not the only thing I would vote on.”
Nicolas Santacruz, a nanny who was standing near the back of the packed crowd, said he was frustrated with the media for projecting Clinton’s victory the day before Tuesday’s election night.
“It’s extremely cool, although it’s annoying that the news took it away from us yesterday,” Santacruz said.
Many of Clinton’s supporters also expressed frustration with Sanders for remaining in the race. A large screen hanging over the crowd showed news broadcasts, and audience members booed when NBC News projected Sanders as the winner in North Dakota. Some members of the audience at Clinton’s event said they hoped Sanders would begin to get behind Clinton and help her win over the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
“I think he should try and express his platform and continue to express support for more liberal views, but I think it’s time for him to start working with her,” explained Kietzman. “And I think he will, because I think she’s going to win big tonight.”
Andrea Zuniga pointed out that Clinton quickly endorsed President Obama after she conceded the 2008 Democratic primary to him. Zuniga suggested that Sanders should “take a page from her book” and “work for party unity.”
Ogunloye, the researcher, had a slightly different perspective on Sanders. “What about him? Let him go away. He’s of no use,” he said.
The Clinton campaign certainly seems to be shifting away from the primary fight against Sanders. Next week, Clinton is scheduled to campaign in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two major swing states in the general election. Clinton campaign aide Lily Adams offered a blunt response when Yahoo News asked if the trip represents a new focus on the general election.
“Yeah, they’re battleground states,” Adams said.
(Cover thumbnail photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)