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Clinton Has The Delegates To Claim Democratic Nomination, AP Tally Shows

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Even as the primary season's final round of voting is today, last night, the Associated Press called the race on the Democratic side.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Its tally of delegates and survey of superdelegates shows Hillary Clinton has clinched her party's nomination for president, even though Bernie Sanders is still campaigning and Clinton must still be formally nominated at the Democratic convention.

MONTAGNE: And on the line with us now is the former Democratic governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson. He's a Clinton supporter. Good morning.

BILL RICHARDSON: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And given that AP call, this is an historic moment - the first woman to be nominated by a major party for president.

RICHARDSON: Well, it is historic. But it's premature. Voting has to take place today. There's six states that are voiding - that are voting. Hillary Clinton is ahead by over 3 million votes. She needs - she's leading 287 pledged delegates - 2,324 needed. You know, you have to respect the voters today. In my state of New Mexico, there's a vote today - in New Jersey, California, North and South Dakota, Montana. So it's a little premature. I think they're basing those numbers on projections. But it's not over yet, and we have to respect the process.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, stay with us, Governor, as we listen to NPR's Tamara Keith who spent yesterday with Hillary Clinton here in Los Angeles.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: With six states still to vote, Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination about 24 hours too soon. She was preparing to give a speech in a community college gymnasium when the word came in. It was her fifth campaign stop of a very long day.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: According to the news, we are on the brink of a historic...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ...Historic, unprecedented moment. But we still have work to do, don't we?

KEITH: And then she moved on with her stump speech - no more mentions of history. Clinton and her campaign have been saying from the start she would work for every vote, take nothing for granted. Fourteen months ago, she was at another community college in Iowa, her first public event of the campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: And I'm going to work hard to meet as many people. I'll be rolling out ideas and policies about what I think will work. But I want it to be informed by what's actually working.

KEITH: Back then, the inevitable candidate was doing everything possible not to act inevitable. But now, she really is inevitable. And her campaign is concerned supporters will stay home today. Last night, at a star-studded concert and fundraiser at the Greek Theatre in LA, actress Eva Longoria begged voters not to let the AP call make them complacent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVA LONGORIA: Do not let that keep you away. We need California.

(APPLAUSE)

LONGORIA: We need New Jersey. We need North Dakota. We need South - we need the six states that are - that are voting tomorrow. So please, find your polling place. And help Hillary make history by delivering a win in California.

KEITH: Then, Longoria introduced Ricky Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICKY MARTIN: (Singing) She's into superstitions, black cats and voodoo dolls...

KEITH: Clinching the nomination early only makes plain what has become increasingly clear in recent days - California's Democratic primary is more about symbolism than delegate math. For Clinton, it's the hope of ending on a high note - for Bernie Sanders, the last gasp of an argument about being the strongest candidate. Toni Bazley, who came to see Clinton speak in LA, has already voted by mail.

TONI BAZLEY: You know, it's going to be a tight race here in California. I don't know who's going to win. But I think she's going to win the president - she's going to be the president of the United States.

KEITH: Bazley praised Clinton for her experience, her determination and her thick skin. It's something Clinton is going to need over the next five months.

MONTAGNE: And that is NPR's Tamara Keith in Los Angeles. And back now with former Governor Bill Richardson. And of course, we see the challenge. What if Bernie Sanders does carry California today?

RICHARDSON: Well, I've just been in California. I think there's a possibility he will. But New Mexico - I strongly feel that Hillary will win that. New Jersey looks good. I think that the numbers are looking excellent so that the delegates - pledged superdelegates are going to go with Hillary. But I think it's important that Bernie Sanders realize that we have to unify the party. We have to defeat Donald Trump. He has three choices. One, he can become a party statesman by joining the campaign and being supportive.

Secondly, he knows he can become a future Democratic leader. I mean, he already is with his thousands of supporters. Or he can go into that column of being a potential spoiler, which shouldn't be something that he wants to do. I know him. He's a realistic politician. But he has to be careful with all his supporters. They're good people. They're idealistic. He has to bring them along. I - if it takes a few days for him to make the statement that he's supportive, let him do that because you don't want to get ahead of your supporters.

MONTAGNE: All right, so we just have about a minute here left. But let me just ask you - looking ahead, Donald Trump is quite a challenge for Hillary Clinton. What do you see her doing differently in what is going to be a very tough - what has been described as a knife fight?

RICHARDSON: Well, Donald Trump is hurting himself every day he speaks, so that's a big asset. But I think Hillary Clinton - we have to find ways to get into younger voters that supported Bernie Sanders. We have to not take Hispanics and African American voters, Asian voters for granted, even though they're with Hillary right now - I think especially those younger voters. And I think a challenge will be independents - go after them. And there are a lot of disaffected Republicans - national-security Republicans that might move towards Hillary because of the very, very negative and very, very - the campaign that Donald Trump is running that is - every day is losing votes and is so unconventional.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Bill Richardson is the former Democratic governor of New Mexico and a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.