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Hillary Clinton wins Alabama Democratic primary

Hillary Clinton visits Laree's Shoppe of Favorites store on May 19, 2015, in Independence, Iowa, makes the world's most amazing face.
Hillary Clinton visits Laree's Shoppe of Favorites store on May 19, 2015, in Independence, Iowa, makes the world's most amazing face.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has won Alabama's Democratic primary, according to projections from multiple news outlets.

Clinton was heavily favored to win Alabama. The state's Democratic electorate is dominated by black voters — according to exit polls, 47 percent of primary voters were black. Black voters supported Clinton overwhelmingly in Nevada and South Carolina.

She was ahead by more than 25 points in pre-primary polling, and the Sanders campaign didn't put as much energy into campaigning there as it did in some of the other states up for grabs today.

What does this mean for the Democratic race?

The real measure of how important Alabama is to the broader Democratic primary battle is whether it makes it more or less likely that Bernie Sanders will be able to catch up to Hillary Clinton's support. Because the primary calendar is spread out, it's totally plausible that Clinton could come out to an early lead as her stronger states vote early — then watch it evaporate as pro-Sanders states turned out to the polls later. (Or vice versa.)

One way to figure out if Clinton's lead is temporary, or if Sanders is running out of time to close the gap, is to work backward. If Sanders and Clinton had exactly equal amounts of support among all Democratic primary voters in America, what would the race look like right now? What would have happened in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and what would happen in the Super Tuesday states tonight?

Nate Silver and the team at FiveThirtyEight have one way of estimating that. They use the demographics of each state to predict how much that state would "lean" toward Clinton or Sanders if the race were tied nationally.

According to that model, if Sanders were tied with Clinton nationally he'd be losing to her by 30 points in Alabama. That huge margin — the biggest of any state voting on Super Tuesday — helps explain why Clinton's win here was so expected, and why Sanders spent so little time in the state. Of all the states up for grabs tonight, this is the one that Sanders supporters should worry the least about having lost.