Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has won the Puerto Rico primary, adding to her delegate count and putting her within a short striking distance of the 2,383 threshold necessary to clinch the party's nomination.
On June 5, voters in Puerto Rico turned out in landslide support for the former secretary of state. When the race was called in the U.S. territory, Clinton had won 64 percent of the vote while her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, had only won 34 percent, Politico reports.
Residents of Puerto Rico are not allowed to participate in the general election but do vote in party primaries. The island is relatively delegate-rich, with 60 pledged delegates at stake as voters took to polling places.
With her victory in the Puerto Rico, Clinton now has 1,809 pledged delegates. Sanders currently has 1,519, although the gulf between the two candidates broadens considerably when superdelegates are added.
Superdelegates, the Democratic party leaders who are allowed to place their vote for either candidate, has overwhelmingly swung Clinton’s way. Adding them into the mix, Clinton has 2,357 overall delegates while Sanders has 1,565 delegates.
The Vermont senator has criticized the superdelegate system as undemocratic and giving Clinton an unfair edge in the race.
As Sanders lags behind Clinton in the pledged delegate race, the crux of his strategy has now become swaying superdelegates to come to his side before the party convention, arguing that he polls better than Clinton in the general election race against presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Clinton had won the Puerto Rico primary in 2008 by a similar margin. She had cultivated her outreach with the island territory during her service as a senator for New York.
The most pressing matter for Puerto Rican voters is the island’s debt crisis. The U.S. territory has $70 billion in public debt, resulting in a crippled economy with some basic services and infrastructure shutting down.
“This is one of the most important political moments for Puerto Rico,” 29-year-old Emanuel Rosado told The New York Times. Rosado voted for Clinton, saying, “I’m taking action as a result of the economic crisis.”
A deal is in the works between the U.S. House and the White House to restructure a portion of Puerto Rico’s public debt. Both Clinton and Sanders are in favor of helping the island but have differed on the current legislation. Sanders has called for it to be scrapped for a better deal while Clinton wants it to go forward and be improved over time.
Neither candidate was in Puerto Rico on primary day but were instead campaigning in California, which will hold its primary on June 7.
With 546 delegates at stake, California is the biggest prize of the Democratic primary. A June 5 poll conducted by CBS News/YouGov found that the race is incredibly close, with Clinton leading by 49 percent support with Sanders right behind with 47 percent.
While Clinton is campaigning hard to win California, she could have already clinched that Democratic nomination by winning the New Jersey primary held earlier on the same day. The former secretary of state polled 61 percent support in the same survey while Sanders has 34 percent.