Politics

Clinton Claims Victory, Savors Historic Milestone

Wins in California, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota pad her delegate count

Hillary Clinton claims victory in her Democratic nomination fight with Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton declared victory Tuesday in a long, hard battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, marking the historic accomplishment a day after after an unofficial tally showed her with the necessary delegates.  

"Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone: the first time in our nation's history that a woman will be a major party's nominee," Clinton said to the roars of the crowd at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  

"Tonight's victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible."  

The celebration, which came amid a string of primary victories Tuesday,  began with a video that reflected on other milestones in women's politics, from the suffragette movement through the civil rights and gay rights struggles.  

She congratulated Sen. Bernie Sanders, her chief opponent in the nomination process, for the energy and passion he inspired in the contest. Her speech touched on many of the issues he emphasized, ranging from income inequality to college loan relief. And she invited his followers, as well as Republicans, to join her campaign.  

"I know it never feels good to put your heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in and come up short. I know that feeling well," she said. "But let's remember everything that unites us."  

President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Clinton and congratulated her on securing the delegates needed to claim the nomination. Obama is expected to endorse her in the days ahead, but his aides discouraged speculation that the announcement would come Wednesday, when both he and Clinton are in New York  

"Her historic campaign inspired millions and is an extension of her lifelong fight for middle-class families and children,” Obama said in a statement.  

As she made her way through the crowd after the speech, Clinton greeted  Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, as well as New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

A tally released Monday night by the Associated Press showed that Clinton had secured the delegates needed for the nomination after winning weekend contests and receiving a surge of support from the party's super delegates. She padded that lead Tuesday with victories over Sanders in California, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota

Sanders refused to accept the AP's estimates, initially saying he will continue fighting for support of the super delegates — party officials and elected leaders whose votes are not officially counted until the July convention. He won the North Dakota caucuses and Montana primary Tuesday night.

Later he said, "Let's assess where we are after tomorrow." The New York Times reported that Sanders plans to lay off half his campaign staff Wednesday. He is expected to meet with Obama on Thursday.

The presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump wasted no time Tuesday going on the attack against Clinton. In a speech he gave after winning the New Jersey contest, Trump signaled he would begin attacking the former secretary of state on fundraising efforts by the Clinton Global Initiative run by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

"The Clintons have turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form," Trump said. "She turned the State Department into a private hedge fund."

[ Polls Show Trump, Clinton Close ]

Hillary Clinton devoted much of her speech to attacking Trump, calling him "temperamentally unfit" to be president and urging voters to turn away from what she called his divisive campaign.

"To be great we can't be small," she said. "We have to be as big as the values that define America."

Election Day is Nov. 8. Key polls show Trump and Clinton in a tight race.

As of Wednesday morning, Clinton's tally includes 2,184 pledged delegates earned through primary and caucus balloting, as well as commitments from 571 super delegates. That brings Clinton well past the magic number for the Democratic nomination: 2,383, according to delegate tracker maintained by the AP.  

[ As Hillary Makes History, Here's Where Women Stand in Congress ]  

Aides to Sanders said he would continue to compete for super delegates, but he faces an uphill climb , given his long-time status as an independent senator and his frequent criticism of the superdelegate system.  

[ Sanders' Long Shot Delegate Hunt ]  

Clinton was the Democratic front-runner since before Day 1 of the primary season, but she's struggled to dispatch Sanders, her lone serious rival.  

Sanders has racked up big primary and caucus victories with his anti-establishment message energizing young voters and those feeling left out of government and left behind in the economic recovery.  

But he received about 3 million fewer votes than Clinton through the nomination process and was unable to catch her in the race for delegates. The AP tracker  — which includes results from primaries and caucuses as well as interviews with superdelegates  — shows that Sander has support from 1,804 pledged delegates and 48 superdelegates.  

[ Sanders Supporters Sue Over California Primary ]  

Monday night, Sanders spokesman Briggs released the following statement:  

“It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer.  

“Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”   

Niels Lesniewski and Bridget Bowman contributed.