WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton will be the first woman to top the presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party, having captured commitments from the number of delegates needed to become the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee.
It was a victory that arrived Monday — nearly eight years to the day after she conceded her first White House campaign to Barack Obama and famously noted her inability to "shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling."
Campaigning this time as the loyal successor to the nation's first black president, Clinton held off a surprisingly strong challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to break through.
Clinton reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive nominee with a decisive victory in Puerto Rico and a burst of last-minute support from party insiders known as superdelegates.
An Associated Press count of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and a survey of party insiders known as superdelegates shows Clinton with the overall support of the required 2,383 delegates.
Clinton has 1,812 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. She also has the support of 571 superdelegates, according to an Associated Press count.
Now the presumptive nominee, she will formally accept her party's nomination in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
But Bernie Sanders' campaign says Clinton's nomination as the Democratic Party's presidential pick is dependent on superdelegates who can still change their minds between now and the July convention.
Sanders' spokesman Michael Briggs says the campaign's job is to convince the superdelegates — party insiders — that the Vermont senator is "by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump." He says calling the Democratic contest before superdelegates formally vote at the convention is a "rush to judgment."
Campaigning in San Francisco, Sanders would not speculate to reporters about what a poor showing in Tuesday's primaries might mean to his presidential campaign. "Let me just talk to you after the primary here in California where we hope to win. Let's assess where we are after tomorrow," he said.
The Vermont senator's tone was more subdued after saying over the weekend that the Democratic convention would be contested if no one wins the nomination based solely on delegates awarded in the primaries and caucuses. And Sanders faced new questions about the future of his campaign amid reports that President Barack Obama was readying an endorsement of Clinton.
Sanders and Clinton are competing in contests in six states on Tuesday, headlined by California, the nation's largest state, offering 475 pledged delegates. Clinton, a former New York senator, is heavily favored in Tuesday's New Jersey primary and winning a share of the state's 142 pledged delegates would likely put her over the top.
But campaign manager Robby Mook says Clinton is still looking ahead to six states voting Tuesday, including New Jersey and California. He says Clinton "is working to earn every vote" and clinch the majority of pledged delegates up for grabs in the Democratic nominating process.
Obama, who bested Clinton in 2008 during her first bid for the Democratic nomination, is preparing to formally endorse her and start aggressively making the case against Donald Trump. White House officials said the announcement could come within days, although not before Tuesday's elections.