After four months, Tuesday was the final significant day of voting in the presidential primaries — even though, according to multiple media outlets, Hillary Clinton has already wrapped up the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders remains in the race and hasn't yet conceded.
Six states went to the polls on the Democratic side, with a total of 694 delegates at stake. They are:
1) California (475 delegates): Hillary Clinton has been called the winner.
2) New Jersey (126 delegates): Hillary Clinton has been called the winner.
3) New Mexico (34 delegates): Hillary Clinton has been called the winner.
4) Montana (21 delegates): Bernie Sanders has been called the winner.
5) South Dakota (20 delegates): Hillary Clinton has been called the winner.
6) North Dakota (18 delegates): Bernie Sanders has been called the winner.
And technically there's one more contest after this — the District of Columbia Democratic primary is on Tuesday of next week, June 14.
The question of who won this Tuesday was a mostly symbolic one, without too much implication for the delegate count.
That's because Clinton goes into tonight's contests with a sizable lead in pledged delegates. And since Democrats allot all their primary and caucus delegates proportionally, Sanders won't be able to overcome Clinton's existing pledged delegate lead unless he wins incredible landslide victories across the board tonight — which he hasn't done so far, far from it.
Furthermore, when superdelegate endorsements are taken into account, Clinton already has enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, according to tallies by the Associated Press and NBC News — so wins tonight would only cement that status.
The state of the Democratic race
The Democratic delegate count can get a bit complicated, because in addition to the party's 4,051 pledged delegates awarded in primary and caucus voting, there are 714 superdelegates — party figures who are free to support whichever candidate they want. So there are three main ways to determine who wins (plus an extra tally that is basically meaningless but could be used as a good talking point).
1) Count both pledged delegates and superdelegates. This is the simplest way of tallying things up, incorporating both pledged delegates and the superdelegates who have publicly made endorsements so far. This is also the method the convention will use to determine the nominee, so it's obviously quite important.
The magic number for an outright delegate majority is 2,383, and according to the Associated Press and NBC News, Clinton passed it on Monday. Sanders, by contrast, is more than 500 delegates away from it, which is very far away indeed.
2) Look at pledged delegates alone and see who has the majority. There's also some justification for excluding the superdelegates from the tally entirely — for looking just at which candidate gets more pledged delegates, to get a better sense of "the will of the people." (After all, Democratic superdelegates have never dethroned the leader in pledged delegates.)
The magic number for a pledged delegate majority is 2,026 — and Clinton topped this on Tuesday, finishing with at least 2,174 pledged delegates.
3) Count pledged delegates but assume the superdelegates are still up for grabs. As Sanders has fallen further behind, he's made the case for a different metric. He says that unless one candidate wins an outright delegate majority (2,383) in pledged delegates alone, the outcome will be decided by the 714 superdelegates.
Now, the vast majority of these superdelegates have already endorsed (mostly for Clinton) — but they are still perfectly free to change their minds. So, according to Sanders, we should just consider all the superdelegates neutral and view this scenario as a "contested convention."
This seems a lot like an effort by Sanders to move the goalposts. In past nomination contests, media outlets and leading party figures have generally used the first two metrics to determine the winner. And since Democrats have so many superdelegates and those proportional rules for regular delegates, it's difficult for anyone to win an outright majority of pledged delegates in a race that stays competitive all the way through. (Barack Obama fell well short of doing so in 2008 but was declared the presumptive nominee anyway.)
4) Count who won more actual votes nationwide. Finally, though the Democratic nomination is in the end decided by delegates, it is possible to ditch all this delegate stuff and look only at which candidate won the most votes overall — the national popular vote.
Clinton is clearly ahead by this metric too — she's gotten around 15.8 million votes to Sanders's about 12.1 million, according to the Green Papers. Now, this isn't a perfect metric either, because some states hold lower-turnout caucuses and some don't even release their vote totals. But FiveThirtyEight has convincingly argued that the metric doesn't significantly hurt Sanders and probably even helps him.
The big question is what Sanders does next
Clinton has won an outright delegate majority, a majority of pledged delegates, and the national popular vote. However, she has fallen short of the metric Sanders has recently laid out — like Obama in 2008, she won't win an outright delegate majority with pledged delegates alone.
Sanders now has a choice to make. In recent days, the Vermont senator has maintained that if this is the outcome, he'll stay in the race until the convention — and spend the next month and a half lobbying superdelegates to abandon Clinton and support him instead. And his campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs reiterated that sentiment last night, saying in a statement, "Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump."
This sounds a bit bizarre. It would mean that in effect, Sanders would be lobbying a small group of party elites to overturn the "will of the people" despite failing to win a majority of pledged delegates or votes nationwide. Furthermore, such an effort seems vanishingly unlikely to succeed, given superdelegates' overwhelming support for Clinton so far (barring some seismic event like an indictment). Not a single superdelegate has switched from Clinton to Sanders yet.
There is reason to be skeptical of Sanders's pronouncements, though. Presidential candidates have often argued that they'll fight all the way until the convention, only to reverse course when defeat is finally unmistakable. And Matt Yglesias argues that Sanders will likely do the same.
Whatever Sanders's intentions, the Democratic Party is eager for Hillary Clinton to move on to the general election and focus on taking on Donald Trump. Indeed, according to recent reports from the New York Times and CNN, several key Democratic figures who have remained neutral so far, like President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will likely endorse Clinton in the coming days, as an effort to signal to Sanders that it's time to throw in the towel.