NEW YORK — Following her strong performance on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton and her team projected an inevitable path to the nomination Wednesday as challenger Bernie Sanders and his campaign promised to mount a comeback.
Clinton celebrated with a homecoming rally in the state she represented in the Senate, attracting a labor union-heavy crowd of 5,400 to Manhattan's Javits Center, according to her campaign.
"Yesterday was one for the history books!" Clinton, flanked by giant American flags, declared in a hangar-size room. "Our campaign went nationwide."
Clinton made no mention of Sanders, and neither did the numerous high-profile supporters who took the stage before her.
"Hillary Clinton is going to become the Democratic nominee," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "You can feel it. It is coming."
Making it clear that he was ready to get on with the general election, Cuomo teed off on Republican front-runner Donald Trump. He performed a lengthy impression of the billionaire and riffed on his signature slogan.
"They say they want to make America great again," Cuomo said. "They don't know what made America great in the first place."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who drew out his endorsement process before settling on onetime boss Clinton, said the former secretary of state was the best candidate to tackle economic inequality and face off against the GOP.
"The Republican Party is scared to death of Hillary Clinton," he said.
Earlier in the day, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook sent a memo to reporters saying "Sanders will have a very difficult time catching" Clinton. Mook detailed how Clinton had taken an estimated lead of 180 pledged delegates over Sanders, including a projected net delegate gain of 78 in Texas alone.
"This lead is larger than any lead then-Senator Obama had at any point in the 2008 primary," Mook wrote.
"We have no doubt that as long as Sen. Sanders remains in the primary, he will continue to win elections along the way," Mook added. "But it will make little difference to Hillary's pledged delegate lead."
Clinton allies showed no signs Wednesday of trying to ease Sanders out of the race, sensitive to the possibility of turning off a large chunk of voters they will need in November if Clinton wins the nomination.
"I don't think anyone has talked about people getting out of the race prematurely," Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told NBC News. "Hillary and Bernie are such a contrast to what we're seeing on the Republican side right now, where they are talking about literally keeping people out of their party."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a strong Clinton union backer, said that the Democratic front-runner is taking nothing for granted and that she can do more than one thing at a time.
"I don't ever think anything is inevitable," Weingarten said. "She is both trying to earn the nomination — and it is a big step that has happened in the past of weeks to do so — but she's also focusing on the differences" with Trump.
Elsewhere, Sanders and his campaign vowed to keep up the fight.
At a press briefing Wednesday morning in Burlington, Vermont, top Sanders aides laid out a path they say can take them to the nomination. They hope to sweep three caucuses this weekend, perform well in next week's primary in Michigan and then walk away from the March 15 contests with a major delegate haul.
"Super Tuesday was perhaps the single best day on the calendar for Hillary Clinton," said Sanders' top strategist, Tad Devine, noting that it had the highest concentration of states with large African-American populations.
The candidate himself rallied supporters in Maine, one of this weekend's caucus states that he expects to win, where he called Super Tuesday a "fantastic night."
"Given the fact that the pundits have been wrong from day one," Sanders joked, "I am very, very excited when I read in The Washington Post today from some writer who said that all the pundits are calling the race for Clinton."
It set him up for the punch line: "That means we're probably gonna win in a landslide."