The Associated Press has declared Hillary Clinton is the “presumptive” Democratic party nominee after reaching the delegate threshold necessary to secure her party’s nomination.
But, because the AP count includes hundreds of superdelegates, some of whom could change their minds before voting at next month’s convention, the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling the AP report a “rush to judgment.”
In a statement, the Sanders campaign said, “Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination. She will be dependent on superdelegates who do not vote until July 25 and who can change their minds between now and then.”
The AP's call came on the eve of presidential primaries in California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The Sanders campaign hopes a victory in Tuesday's California primary will clearly demonstrate that Sanders is the strongest candidate to run against presumed Republican candidate Donald Trump.
And top campaign officials are very disappointed that national media organizations on Monday night declared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the presumptive nominee based on new support from some unelected superdelegates.
The determination was made after a number of uncommitted superdelegates declared their support for Clinton, giving her a majority of elected and non-elected delegates.
But Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, says that's a distortion, given that superdelegates have the ability to change their allegiance between now and the Democratic convention in July.
“To call the race based on a handful of superdelegates that were sort of sprung out at the last minute really is unfortunate, and it's unfortunate in this reason that there are six states voting today,” Weaver says. “And this kind of reporting really serves only to suppress voter turnout in these states."
Weaver says a key part of Sanders' strategy to win the nomination is to persuade a number of superdelegates in the coming weeks that he's the strongest candidate to run against the presumed GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“Bernie Sanders has not really yet begun to make the case in an intensive way to the superdelegates himself, and what the polling shows is that he is clearly the stronger candidate against Donald Trump in the fall,” Weaver says.
Weaver says he expects the campaign will reassess its overall strategy in the coming days.
“We will take a look at the results today in California and the other states and calculate into how we proceed forward in terms of winning the nomination,” he says.
Five other states are voting Tuesday, including New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and both North and South Dakota.
Middlebury College political science professor Matt Dickinson thinks the media reports declaring Clinton the presumed Democratic nominee could actually encourage Sanders supporters to go to the polls in California.
“He's got to overcome not only Clinton but the whole Democratic Party establishment,” Dickinson says. “And what better way to sort of thumb your nose at the establishment including the media than to turn out and vote?”
Tune in to special coverage from NPR this evening beginning at 8 p.m.
This post was updated at 1 p.m. to correct previous reporting that Sanders will be returning to Vermont on Tuesday evening — he will be speaking at a campaign event in Santa Monica, California — and again at 5 p.m. to include additional reporting.