Why California’s Clinton-Sanders Primary May Not Be So Important After All
Policy + Politics

Why California’s Clinton-Sanders Primary May Not Be So Important After All

Next week’s California primary essentially marks the end of the drawn-out Democratic presidential primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont senator has staked his hopes on the 475 delegates up for grabs in the Golden State, focusing his entire campaign there in recent weeks. That effort hasn’t moved the needle. A new Hoover Institution Golden State poll shows Clinton with a huge advantage among likely Democratic primary voters, 51 percent to 38 percent. The survey is the latest evidence that Clinton has begun to pull away in California.

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As important as the Golden State is, though, Clinton could hit the magic number to clinch the nomination before the California polls even close next Tuesday. Five other states, including Clinton-friendly New Jersey, are also slated to vote on June 7. Those five states award 219 delegates, and Clinton is just 71 delegates shy from getting the 2,383 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Still, a big win in California could be an important springboard into a general election campaign against Donald Trump, and landing two big endorsements could add to Clinton’s momentum. Popular California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed her on Tuesday. In an open letter to Democrats and Independents in the state, Brown called Clinton’s nomination “the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump.” Clinton also won the backing of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, the first time the influential environmental group has backed a presidential candidate.

Brown’s endorsement is notable because he bitterly feuded with Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign and the Clintons are reputed to have a long memory when it comes to political slights, but the NRDC endorsement has to be particularly irksome to Sanders. He has needled Clinton for changing her position on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and has also called for imposing a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse emissions, a stance Clinton has yet to embrace.

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Monday night, Sanders showed up at halftime of the Game 7 of the NBA playoffs between the Golden State Warriors’ and the Oklahoma City Thunder, assuring him a spot on every local news network in the pricey California media markets.

“We came in the second half and the Warriors turned it around," Sanders told reporters after the game in Oakland. "The Warriors were down 3-1 and they turned it around and I think that that’s what we’re going to do, too. A very good omen for our campaign."

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He also jokingly took credit for the win.

"Absolutely. No question about it," Sanders said. "What other explanation is there?"

A loss in California would be a deep, but not mortal, blow to Clinton’s campaign and could embolden Sanders to make good on his promise to take his case for the nomination all the way to the convention. Such a push would keep the Democrats from unifying around their presumptive standard-bearer while Republicans fall in line behind Trump.