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Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska Jeff Daniels narrates new Biden campaign ad for Michigan MORE clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, officially setting the stage for a contentious general election fight with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE this November.

The former vice president hit the delegate threshold after most recently winning a series of primaries Tuesday night across the country. The Associated Press projected that Biden had 1,995 delegates to the national convention, more than the 1,991 needed to clinch the nomination.

"It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded — and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party," Biden said in a statement Friday.

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"I am going to spend every day between now and Nov. 3 fighting to earn the votes of Americans all across this great country so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation, and make sure that as we rebuild our economy, everyone comes along."

Biden has been the presumptive Democratic nominee since April when his last remaining primary rival, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIntercept bureau chief says congressional progressives looking to become stronger force in 2021 Obama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom MORE (I-Vt.), suspended his campaign. But delays in primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic left the former vice president short of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination until Tuesday, when seven states and the District of Columbia held their presidential contests.

Heading into the June 2 primary contests, Biden had somewhere around 1,550 pledged delegates to his name. With 479 total delegates up for grabs on Tuesday, Biden needed to win at least 89 percent of the available delegates to reach the minimum threshold for securing the nomination. 

Biden has clinched the nomination at a time when Trump is under scrutiny over his response to a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. and hurt large parts of the economy. It also comes as the country is convulsed by protests after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, under police custody in Minneapolis.

"This is a difficult time in America’s history. And Donald Trump’s angry, divisive politics is no answer," Biden said. "The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together. We need an economy that works for everyone — now. We need jobs that bring dignity — now. We need equal justice — and equal opportunities — for every American now. We need a president who cares about helping us heal — now."

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There was no doubt before this week that Biden would be the Democratic nominee. But he still had to contend with Sanders, who had chosen to remain on the ballot in remaining primary contests in an effort to amass progressive delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Winning the 89 percent of delegates Biden needed to clinch the nomination was no easy feat; since Sanders’s exit from the race in April, Biden has won such a high share of delegates in only one state, Nebraska, where Sanders failed to meet the 15 percent threshold to receive any delegates at all.

In clinching the nomination, Biden has scored a victory that seemed like a long shot in February, when the former vice president took tough losses in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and Nevada primaries.

He rebounded with an outsize victory in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 and on Super Tuesday in March, when he won 10 of the 14 nominating contests held on that day. After those wins, the once-crowded Democratic primary field winnowed down quickly and several of Biden’s former opponents threw their support behind him.

Sanders was the last of Biden’s rivals to drop out of the race. Days after he suspended his campaign, he formally endorsed the former vice president.

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With the nomination clinched, Biden's focus will now turn to shoring up support on his left flank and his vice presidential pick.

Biden has already opened up a number of task forces on an array of issues to try to mend policy divides between centrists and progressives, tapping a several prominent liberals to serve in the groups.

The former vice president is also the focus of intense scrutiny over who he will tap as his running mate. Biden has already vowed to pick a woman, though some allies have said recent protests over Floyd's death have elevated the need for him to pick a woman of color.

Among those who have been floated are Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden pushes into Trump territory The Hill's Campaign Report: One week from Election Day | Biden looks to expand map | Trump trails narrowly in Florida, Arizona The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - One week out, where the Trump, Biden race stands MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStart focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls Senate Democrats want hearing on Pentagon vaccine effort MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Val Demmings (D-Fla.) and more.

Biden will officially accept the Democratic nomination at the party’s national convention in August. 

Updated: June 6 at 6:35 a.m.