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Hillary Clinton wins Tennessee Democratic primary

Hillary Clinton just won Tennessee's Democratic primary, according to multiple media outlet projections.

That is not good news for Bernie Sanders.

Tennessee is actually one of the most important contests of the night for the Democratic primary race. It's one of the few whose outcome was genuinely in question going into Super Tuesday. More importantly, it was an important test of whether Bernie Sanders's early victory in New Hampshire (and his tying Hillary Clinton in Iowa) was indicative of a lasting appeal within the Democratic Party, at least among white voters.

Sanders spent time in Tennessee in the days before the primary, and his campaign devoted serious resources to its operations there. The Sanders team very much wanted to use a victory here to show that he hadn't lost momentum since New Hampshire among the voters who'd supported him most.

But if estimates are correct, Clinton didn't just win — she won decisively enough that CNN called the race for her the minute the polls closed.

Sanders's trouble could have come, in part, from an age gap. Exit polls showed that the electorate was skewed toward older voters, who tend to support Clinton. The relatively small turnout among young voters carries a larger negative implication for Sanders: that the coalition of voters he needs to bring about "political revolution" just isn’t materializing.

What does this mean for the Democratic race?

The real measure of how important Tennessee 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 beating her by 2 points in Tennessee. In other words, Clinton's win in Tennessee is very, very, very bad news for Bernie Sanders.