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Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Beyond: Where Do Democrats Go From Here?

Her victory in California will deal another blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Image: Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton addressed her supporters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday.PETER FOLEY / EPA

BROOKLYN, New York — Hillary Clinton won the California primary by an unexpectedly wide margin, NBC News projected early Wednesday.

Her win was the icing on the cake to a historic 24 hours that saw Clinton become the first female candidate on a major party's presidential ticket.

It also dealt another blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has refused to bow out of the contentious Democratic contest.

Now, the 2016 race will begin to move very quickly for Clinton’s presidential campaign as the machinery of the Democratic Party’s full arsenal marshals itself to prepare for battle against Donald Trump.

Clinton declared victory Tuesday night during a celebration here with thousands of supporters as she placed her nomination in the sweep of history for women’s rights. She also praised Sanders — who Tuesday night vowed to continue his fight until July — and rallied her troops for battle against Trump.

“It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now,” she said, echoing the key image of the concession speech from her first presidential bid — delivered exactly eight years ago. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone. For the first time in our nation’s history, a woman will be a major party’s nominee.”

The former secretary of state invoked the memory of her mother, who was born nearly 100 years ago, on the day Congress passed the 19th Amendment.

“Tonight’s victory is not about one person, it belongs to generation of women and men who struggled and scarified and made this moment possible,” Clinton said.

But Clinton spent much of her time eviscerating Trump, whom she called “temperamentally unfit to be president,” while extending an olive branch to Sanders supporters and even moderate Republicans.

“This election is not about the same old fights between Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “It’s about who we are as Americans.”

About three hours before California was called, NBC News' delegate count as of 3 a.m. Wednesday put Clinton at 2,640 — 573 supers and 2,067 pledged. Sanders had 1,799 — 47 supers and 1752 pledged.

With their nominee in place, Democrats will move rapidly to prepare for the fall. Here’s how.

Endorsements roll in

Party leaders who have been sitting on the sidelines will begin to flood the field for Clinton, starting with Nancy Pelosi who on Tuesday announced she was backing Clinton.

The biggest endorsement to come will be from President Barack Obama, whom aides say is eager to wade into the race. He’ll likely be followed by Vice President Joe Biden, who considered running against Clinton. The two endorsements are likely to be spaced out for maximum impact.

Obama spoke with both Clinton and Sanders Tuesday night, according to the White House, and plans to meet with Sanders on Thursday. He congratulated both candidates on their races, but did not yet make an endorsement.

Another key player to watch will be Elizabeth Warren, who is looking to play a key role in unifying the party thanks to her appeal among both Clinton and Sanders supporters. She may wait for clarity on Sanders’ plans, since so much of her personal base is made-up of his supporters.

Meanwhile, some of the Democratic Party’s most powerful interest groups like the AFL-CIO have waited to engage until the general election.

What does Sanders do?

The Vermont senator made it clear Tuesday night that he is not conceding nor backing down in any way. He has vowed for months to fight all the way to the Democratic National Committee in July, when he’ll mount a long shot effort to flip superdelegates and win the nomination, and he repeated that promise Tuesday.

“The struggle continues,” he said. “We will continue to fight for every vote and for every delegate we can win."

We’ll get a hint of Sanders’ intentions at the convention Wednesday, when the committee responsible for writing a draft of Democratic Party’s platform meets in Washington.

Sanders fought hard to change the makeup of the drafting committee, which now includes die-hard pro-Sanders supporters like racial-justice activist Cornell West, and environmental activist Bill McKibben.

What do Sanders’ supporters do?

While Sanders will likely endorse Clinton eventually, his supporters are another matter. Many are independent voters without strong ties to the Democratic Party, so they may continue fighting Clinton no matter what Sanders does.

His task now, if he wants to help Clinton, will be to do so while avoiding being labeled a tool of establishment by his own supporters.

Clinton made a direct appeal to Sanders’ base in her victory speech Tuesday, praising Sanders and emphasizing their shared goals.

“He has spent his long career in public service fighting for progressives’ causes and principles,” she said.

What does Clinton do now?

While Clinton has been training her fire on Donald Trump for weeks, the general election starts in earnest next week when she campaigns in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two key swing states.

Clinton will do a round of interviews with TV networks Wednesday. Then she’ll speak to Planned Parenthood on Friday in Washington, D.C., where she’ll also meet with top donors. These events will all serve as bit of a victory tour for the two-time presidential candidate.

But first, Clinton said she plans “take a moment” in the coming to days “to fully absorb the history we made.”

What does Trump do?

Even though Trump secured his party’s nomination weeks ago, he’s facing plenty of distractions at the moment. There’s the renewed fifth column opposition over his attacks on a federal judge overseeing two lawsuits against Trump University. And there’s his team’s infighting, and the fact that he hasn’t built a general election campaign infrastructure.

Trump has stuck to his personal attacks on Clinton as she came closer to the clinching the nomination, but it may be difficult to sustain in the one-on-one crucible of a general election.