Hillary Clinton won four of six Democratic party nominating contests on Tuesday to become the first woman from a major party to run for US president, smashing the glass ceiling she left cracked but intact in 2008.
Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee who will face Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the general election five months away in November.
But her rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, has refused to bow out and reiterated in a late night address his determination to go right up to the Democratic convention in July.
Clinton won California, the delegates-rich big prize of the night, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota; and Sanders took the remaining two, North Dakota and Montana.
Her combined total of delegates — pledged and un-pledged superdelegates — was much more than the 2,383 needed to clinch the nomination; she now has 2,755 delegates.
But with just 2,184 of them being pledged delegates (the rest are superdelegates), she misses the threshold, which is pointed out by Sanders as his reason for continuing the battle.
President Barack Obama, who spoke to both on Tuesday, is meeting Sanders on Thursday at the candidate’s request, and may persuade him to exit the race in the interest of the party.
Clinton, who spoke of the glass ceiling after her failed run for the nomination in 2008 and the 18 million cracks she left on it (votes she polled in the primaries), has moved on already.
Praising Sanders and his “extraordinary” campaign, Clinton pitched for party unity in her victory speech, saying, “As we look ahead to the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that unites us.”
That battle ahead, of course, is Trump, who has been under fire for his racist remarks about a federal judge overseeing cases against his now defunct Trump University.
He has been criticised even by his own party. Speaker Paul Ryan called the remarks “indefensible” and Mark Kirk, a senator seeking re-election, has withdrawn his endorsement of Trump.
A chastened Trump has claimed his comment about the judge was “misconstrued”, and on Tuesday sought to rejoin battle with Clinton in remarks read uncharacteristically from a teleprompter.
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” he said, flanked by his family.
The real estate magnate has targeted the Clintons — including former president Bill Clinton — with personal attacks before, calling the Democratic nominee an enabler of her husband’s infidelities.
But some experts have said they have no reason to believe his personal tirades will be any more effective this time than they were in the past — this is not Hillary Clinton’s first election.
She first ran in 2000 for the Senate, and won. Then she ran for the Democratic party nomination for the White House, which she lost to then first-time senator Barack Obama.
Though Clinton has decided to not respond to personal attacks and said she will stay focussed on policies instead, she hit Trump in a surprisingly hard-hitting speech recently.
Many commentators said Trump hasn’t been the same since, flayed at the same time by his own party for his remarks about the judge. His speech on Monday will be his comeback.