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Clinton to Make History as Democratic Presidential Nominee

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, center, celebrates at a rally with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Monday, June 6, 2016.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making history as the first woman to be the presumed nominee for president of one of the country's two major political parties.

She will not be formally named the Democratic Party candidate until its convention next month, but she has clinched the majority 2,383 delegates needed to defeat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institute, told VOA the significance of the moment may be initially lost given that Clinton was already well known and came into the race as the favorite.

"It’s ironic that the moment in history where a woman becomes the nominee is almost seen as what was supposed to happen. That said, I think as she starts to work harder toward the general election campaign she’s going to talk more clearly and in a more focused way about the historic nature of her candidacy," he said.

Clinton expressed caution Monday night, saying that while media delegate counts show her at the edge of an "unprecedented moment," there are six states holding contests Tuesday and she is fighting hard for every vote.

Tuesday is the last major day in the primary process with nearly all of the 851 remaining delegates at stake. Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook said her team is looking forward to clinching a majority in pledged delegates and the popular vote.

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs issued a statement saying the media was rushing to crown Clinton early, and that she can only claim a majority if one counts the hundreds of so-called superdelegates who are now backing Clinton but are free to change their minds before the convention.

"Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump," he said.

Sanders has repeatedly pledged to remain in the race until the end, something Hudak described as a way for Sanders to keep his supporters motivated until he is ready to officially suspend his campaign.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally on May 17, 2016, in Carson, Calif.
FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally on May 17, 2016, in Carson, Calif.

"Clinton certainly did this in 2008, and other candidates have done it in the past," Hudak said. "And then when you’re ready, you turn off the lights and close down the campaign and give a farewell speech to your supporters. You always say you’re running until you’re finally not running.”

Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump got a boost in polls after his final rival dropped out, and Hudak said he expects Clinton to see a similar bump as Sander supporters migrate to her campaign.

Since February 1, the process of choosing the next U.S. president has mainly involved voters who are registered members of the Democratic or Republican parties, but in November the candidates will need to appeal to the majority of people who are not.

Hudak said both Clinton and Trump have erred in not listening to certain groups and must now figure out what moderates want in their next president.

"I think with Trump, he’s effectively communicated with many groups, but we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks he needs to transition toward working with moderate Republicans, working with establishment Republicans and he’s not doing that. He’s entirely tone deaf to it. For Clinton, she really failed to listen to anger and discontent within the Democratic Party at the outset, and so when this uprising of support for Sanders happened it sort of caught the Clinton campaign off guard because they thought that Democrats were fairly happy with the Democratic president and the direction of the country."

Even before clinching their respective nominations, Trump and Clinton spent plenty of time lobbing criticisms at each other. With the party conventions still more than a month away, Hudak said there should be no expectation of the race taking any breaks before election day on November 8.

"There are not going to be lulls," he said. "Between the fiery attitudes from both candidates so far, the increased use in social media in this campaign, and frankly media’s addiction to the fighting between the candidates, you’re not going to see the lull that we’ve seen in previous years. You’re going to see a real brawl happening pretty much continuously.”