June 7, 2016
We’ve reached the finish line. Democrats in Washington D.C. wait until next Tuesday to participate, but for all intents and purposes the train stops here today. Last night, the AP declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee, after digging up additional super delegates who are supporting her. This stepped on Clinton’s plan to declare official victory in her rally tonight in Brooklyn and enraged Berners everywhere.
It doesn’t change the end nomination result in any practical way. Hillary had no chance of winning without super delegate help. She can’t get there on earned delegates alone. Bernie can’t catch up in earned delegates. He can’t catch up in individual votes won. Instead of networks declaring Hillary the nominee-in-waiting the second the New Jersey polls close, she wakes up this morning as such.
For everyone hoping for some drama in the California primary, where polling indicates Hillary and Bernie should go down to the wire, this at least partially deflates the balloon. I was hoping to do a piece predicting the result. I gave up. It was already a tough call. Clinton leads in every poll, but the last four have her ahead by 2, 2, 2, and 1 point.
Bernie tends to outperform his polls in partially open primaries (California allows non-affiliated voters, about 25% of the electorate to participate on either side.) It’s possible some GOP-leaning independents could choose Sanders to embarrass Clinton. Hillary may have benefited from the same when Barack Obama was trying to put her away in Ohio back in 2008.
On the other hand, Clinton was leading with voters who participate early by mail, Sanders with those who were intending to physically go to the polls. If supporters of each candidate are less motivated to turn out with the outcome decided, he has more to lose. Maybe Berners are more defiant and show up anyway, while Hillary’s non-early voting supporters don’t see the point. It was a coin flip yesterday and is now a blindfolded one today.
That doesn’t even begin to get in to any impact from Donald Trump’s weeklong one-way battle with Judge Curio and his failure to respond to Clinton’s foreign policy speech dedicated to knocking down Trump. The most recent poll was mostly taken before many of these recent events. It’s possible Hillary is in better position than we think, with persuadable Democrats impressed with how she took him on.
Clinton will win New Jersey by a good margin. CBS/YouGov had her ahead by 27 points in the most recent survey (5/31-6/3.) Sanders hasn’t stepped foot in the state in weeks. It’s a closed primary, something generally lethal to his chances. He’d easily triumph over Chris Christie, but that matchup isn’t available.
Bernie will win Montana and the Dakotas, probably all by decent margins, especially the open caucus of North Dakota. Neither that win, nor the pending big loss in New Jersey will tell us anything we didn’t already know. California and New Mexico will determine whether this is Coronation Day or at least a partial embarrassment.
If Bernie wins Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, while Hillary takes New Jersey, California, and New Mexico, he completes his dominance of the Canadian border region, while she wins the two biggest states and another with a heavily Latino population. Normally, we would assume the large percentage of non-white voters in New Mexico would ensure a Clinton win.
She won Arizona to the west and Texas to the east, though Sanders won Colorado to the north (helped by a caucus.) But Bernie has done well with Latinos in the Southwest, and again we don’t know how the early declaration of victory for Clinton will affect voters today. There’s no recent polling to speak of. It is a closed primary, so all things being equal, Hillary should take this one.
If Bernie wins 5 of the 6 contests today, things get ugly. We know the party infrastructure desperately wants him out of the way. They will continue to call for his withdrawal, even if the Clinton campaign itself stays relatively muted. But Berners will find themselves in no mood to concede. This is likely true even if Clinton wins New Mexico.
Having the nomination “called” before the final primary day based on extra super delegate support furthers their case, even if any path to a Sanders nomination involves flipping those same super delegates. We’ve heard about a split within the campaign itself. A group led by strategist Tad Devine apparently believes it’s time to begin backing down and negotiating a settlement as soon as the voting is done.
Meanwhile, Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver and others supposedly want to fight to the convention regardless of what happens today or what anyone at the DNC or in the Clinton campaign wants. Each have ground to stand on. The Devine position matches how Gary Hart and Hillary herself ultimately handled things when in similar positions in 1984 and 2008. Neither conceded or withdrew on the final day of voting, but each backed off relatively soon after, Clinton more officially.
Weaver’s side recognizes Sanders would not go in to the next open nomination cycle as the presumptive front runner the way Hart and Clinton did. They were protecting a future Bernie doesn’t have. This isn’t just because he’s 74. It’s hard to picture the party infrastructure looking at him in 2020 or 2024 any differently than the GOP insiders viewed Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
Any way forward for Bernie as an individual, or his movement as a whole, involves creating a new party or breaking the current establishment stranglehold on the Democratic Party. Quickly fading away will not accomplish that goal. In a vacuum, the Weaver approach makes more sense.
But President Obama will officially endorse Clinton any day now. He’s planning on campaigning with her very soon. Elizabeth Warren has begun conversations with Team Clinton and could find herself endorsing quickly. There’s still plenty of speculation about Warren as Veep. Sanders may find it very difficult to get press coverage with the media focused on Hillary v. Trump and Trump v. Himself.
Berners are very committed. If their man wins California, and the whole entirety of the Democratic Party infrastructure comes down on him like a runaway avalanche, they won’t easily return to the fold in November, especially with Libertarian and Green Party candidates on the ballot. Many of these voters aren’t registered Democrats anyway.
So far, Hillary Clinton has won every state she needed to win, even if it was very close. She prevailed by fractions in Iowa. She won narrowly in Nevada. She snuck a victory in Massachusetts, winding up with a strong Super Tuesday. She swept the March 15 contests, winning Missouri by a few votes, and her birth state of Illinois by not much. She triumphed in New York and escaped in Kentucky.
California is the latest must win state since she effectively locked up the nomination a year ago by showing up. We still haven’t seen what happens when she loses one she had to win. If she escapes one last time, we never will. Not all royalty is accepted by the populace. Either way, Clinton gets coronated today. How it goes remains to be seen.