Today is the California primary, but whoops, hang on, to much outrage from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ people, last night the AP declared that Hillary Clinton had finally got her magic number of delegates. This continues to be the primary race that is declared yet keeps right on trucking. The Sanders people were peeved that the race was called the night before the final Super Tuesday, in part because it might discourage his supporters from (probably) one last hurrah.
Polls close at 8 PM Cali time. By 11 PM it, along with North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and New Jersey, will have finished, and we’ll know where the election stands. Or rather, then we’ll start looking towards the conventions and the vague hope that either armies of Bernie Bros or the mighty (er) #NeverTrumpers will do something, anything, to make this election stay as interesting as it has been up until now.
What if Sanders wins today? By certain definitions, Clinton has grabbed her brass ring, and America has its first female nomination for a major party. But those numbers include superdelegates. Superdelegates can technically vote any way they want. They’re not bound the way that the majority of regular delegates are. They’re a different breed, and their commitment is basically verbal. Without them, the gap between Sanders and Clinton is less than 300 delegates. If he somehow magically won California and everywhere else today and in a landslide he could close that gap.
The odds of that are grim. Even if he makes a great showing it’s not likely to be the knockout he’d need, since in most states Clinton would be winning delegates as well. He’s particularly unlikely to win the closed primary in New Mexico, what with his delightful lack of party loyalty. However, in every other state voting today, he has at least a good chance.
If Sanders does well today, it may keep him fueled up until the convention. As his campaign manager said after Clinton got her numbers, “We know that this race is going to carry on until the delegates cast ballots at the convention in Philadelphia.”
As a journalist, you want to see some chaos and contention at a convention. But it’s not projection when Sanders really doesn’t appear ready to accept the numbers–at least not until tonight.
What if Clinton does well? On the other hand, if Clinton just wipes the floor with Sanders, what would there be left for him to say? There would be no basis by which to deny that Clinton had beaten him. He could only point to her status as a political insider or jockey for some weird convention mischief that might unbind pledged delegates.
Sanders has been given the consolation prize for the July Democratic convention, for which he has been asked to help write the platform. Or rather, pick five committee members to help write it. That means the final document might have more juicy progressive bits and less stale authoritarian ones. But unless he’s truly toasted today, it may not be enough to make him sit down and be a good Democrat. Hell, he’s donated to the campaign of the competitor of DNC head Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. If he wants to fight Clinton at the convention, anyone watching this train wreck of an election for the fiery explosions alone will likely be cheering him on.
On the other hand, if he does badly today, the last class of Democrat who is lukewarm on Clinton but terrified of Trump may dive in and start touting her. Then Sanders and his remaining bros really will stand alone.
Should Sanders have dropped out ages ago? That depends. If you’re dying for a woman president, or are just a Hillary Clinton fangirl or boy, the answer is yes. Donald Trump mopped the floor with his competitors, and one by one they kissed his ring (Jeb Bush may have to be drugged before that happens, however.) The desperate efforts of the NeverTrumpers to do something about this have collapsed as fast as David French’s presidential campaign. But democracy needs more buzzing flies like Sanders. If nothing else, he’s going to keep shaming Clinton into moving left.
Do the Republican races matter? Not particularly. Trump has this, and Gov. John Kasich doesn’t show any sign of suddenly feeling the urge to restart his campaign. Trump can afford to lose as many primary votes as he likes, and he isn’t likely to lose many.
On the other hand, Trump doesn’t appear to be going as hard or as smart after Clinton as she recently went after him. Sure, Trump has won based on saying absurd things, but he’s fighting with Hispanic judges right now, not with the Democrats. If he wants to win, he might consider remembering he’s still in a campaign, and that the primaries are not over, no matter how many metaphorical Republican corpses he’s left in his wake.