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Why AP is calling Trump and Biden 'presumptive nominees' for president

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's official: Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have won enough delegates to be called presumptive presidential nominees.

While Biden and Trump were the last remaining major candidates for their parties' 2024 presidential nominations, The Associated Press only uses the designation “presumptive nominee” once a candidate has captured the number of delegates needed to win a majority vote at the national party conventions this summer.

Biden reached that point Tuesday after he won Georgia's primary and enough of the state's delegates to put him above the 1,968 needed to lock up the nomination.

Trump clinched later Tuesday, winning enough delegates to exceed the 1,215 he needed to claim the Republican nomination. Trump won in Georgia and Mississippi before a victory in Washington put him over the top.

A presidential candidate doesn’t officially become the Republican or Democratic nominee until winning the vote on the convention floor. It hasn’t always been this way. Decades ago, presidential candidates might have run in primaries and caucuses, but the contests were mostly ornamental in nature, and the eventual nominees weren’t known until delegates and party bosses hashed things out themselves at the conventions.

Today, the tables have turned. Now, it’s the conventions that are largely ornamental, and it’s the votes cast in primaries and caucuses that decide the nominees. Because of this role reversal, for the last half-century or so, the eventual nominees were known before the conventions, sometimes long before the conventions or even long before they’d won enough delegates to unofficially clinch the nomination.

Nonetheless, the AP doesn't call anyone the “presumptive nominee” until a candidate has reached the so-called magic number of delegates needed for a majority at the convention. That’s true even if the candidate is the only major competitor still in the race.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press