Finally, after almost two years of slogans, pins, and primary campaigns, we have caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. Republicans and Democrats have narrowed their respective fields of presidential candidates down to just one. According to the Associated Press, Hillary Clinton has secured the minimum number of delegates needed to snag the Democratic nomination away from challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders. Although Sanders could still win the nomination, it's a long shot, and now many people are wondering when Clinton will become the official Democratic nominee?
Get ready to use that dreaded p-word for almost the entire summer, folks. Clinton may have mathematically tied up the Democratic nomination Monday, but she won't be the party's official nominee until delegates cast their votes at the Democratic National Convention, which means we're in for seven more weeks of calling Clinton the Democratic Party's "presumptive nominee."
Presumptive, presumed, proper. Who cares, right? It might seem like unnecessary quibbling over semantics, but there is a meaningful difference between a presumptive nominee and an official one.
Presumptive nominees are presidential candidates who are, for whatever reason, assured of obtaining their party's nomination but have not yet been officially nominated by the party. Things become official when candidates are formally announced at their respective party's nominating conventions.
Similarly, a candidate holding a notable lead over their rivals is often described as the frontrunner well before they're named the presumptive nominee. The terms are a subtle, but meaningful marker of where a candidate stands in the presidential race.
While political parties now traditionally always find their presumptive nominees well before their nominating conventions, that hasn't always been the case. Democrats had their last "open convention" in 1952 when it took three rounds of voting to settle on Adlai Stevenson as the party's official nominee. In the more than 60 years since, one presidential candidate has always managed to secure the minimum number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination prior to the convention.
Despite significant gains Sanders had made in California ahead of the state's primary, it seemed inevitable Clinton would secure the Democratic nomination with or without the support of Californian voters. The former secretary of state needed just 73 delegates to meet the 2,383 required to mathematically lock down her party's nomination.
Across the aisle, Trump was declared the official presumptive Republican nominee at the end of May. He is expected to be announced as the party's official presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention the week of July 18.