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Hillary Clinton defeats Bernie Sanders in New Jersey, cementing lock on nomination

Hillary Clinton won the New Jersey primary on Tuesday night.
Hillary Clinton won the New Jersey primary on Tuesday night.

Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the New Jersey primary on Tuesday night, deflating Sanders's hopes for a miraculous last-minute comeback.

The state was called for Clinton around 9 pm Eastern by CNN and Fox News.

The votes are still being counted, but it looks like New Jersey may prove one of Clinton's bigger wins outside of the South. (She was leading in the state by around 20 points around 9:10 pm, according to NJ.com.)

Of course, it's been clear for weeks that Clinton has a formidable delegate lead that Sanders never had much of a shot of erasing. (Including superdelegates, she's already crossed the threshold to win the nomination at the convention, the Associated Press and NBC News said on Monday.)

We don't know the final results from voting on Tuesday. But she'll likely get the lion's share of the state's 126 delegates, pushing her pledged delegate lead beyond where Sanders can hope to catch it, even if he wins California.

Why Hillary Clinton was the favorite in New Jersey

Clinton was heavily favored in New Jersey, in part because of the state's racial diversity, and in part because of Clinton's more general popularity with Democrats throughout the lower Northeast and mid-Atlantic. (Clinton won in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.)

Before today's vote, the polls put Clinton ahead in New Jersey by an average of 20 points, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average. The latest had her up by a whopping 27 points.

New Jersey's relatively substantial African-American population — 12 percent of its voters in 2008 were black — also suggested Clinton had a good chance of scoring a major victory in the state. A model created by Alan Abramowitz, an Emory political scientist, found that the state's demographics suggested she would win a 10-point victory in the race.

The last big factor in Clinton's favor is that New Jersey is a closed primary, meaning independents can't participate.

Sanders has railed against the closed primary as an undemocratic usurpation of the popular will. That's not really consistent — he's benefited from caucuses, for instance, which are arguably far less democratic than closed primaries. Moreover, a study by Abramowitz found that the closed primaries only cost Sanders about 5 points in a handful of contests, not nearly enough to cost him the race.

But 5 points isn't nothing, either. And if the final tally ends up being fairly close, it may have made the difference tonight in New Jersey.

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