Bernie’s Last Stand
As Trump Coasts to Victory, Sanders Still Bashing Clinton in California
THIS JUST IN: “There is no drought,” Donald Trump, soon-to-be Republican nominee for president, announced in the San Joaquin Valley a few days ago. Apparently one of the world’s great unsung hydrologists, he told Fresno farmers that getting all the water they want is a mere push-button matter of political will, which I, Donald, will see to in a jiffy.
Back on Planet Earth, meanwhile, future Democratic foe Hillary Clinton still struggles to turn full attention to Trump, as she fights to fend off the insurgency of Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s camped out in California in a last-ditch bid to derail her.
In the final days and hours before the June 7 primary, here is a look at the state of play:
THE STAKES: Clinton’s cakewalk to the Democratic nomination several months ago turned into a friendly-fire marathon grind against Sanders, whose jeremiads against the one percent and campaign finance corruption deeply resonated among millennials and the progressive wing when matched against her center-left, eat-your-spinach incrementalism.
The laws of arithmetic, combined with the Democrats’ funny math methods of selecting convention delegates, however, ensure that Herself will have the requisite 2,383 delegates by the time the polls close on June 7. Regardless of how the 475 state delegates in play are allocated, however, Sanders will inflict a serious wound if he wins the popular vote: As a political matter, it will advance a media narrative casting Clinton as a weak and deeply flawed front-runner; as a practical matter, it will hinder attempts to unify the party’s left and establishment wings, affording Sanders enough daylight to campaign all the way to the July convention in Philadelphia.
HE’S UP; NO, HE’S DOWN: Not since Charles Lindbergh’s Roaring Twenties days as a wing-walking stunt flyer has anyone barnstormed California with as much energy as Sanders, whose campaign pitched a trio of giant rallies within 24 hours on the Central Coast before hurtling north for another week of three-a-days.
Whether all this whittled Clinton’s once-comfy lead depends on which poll you like: The two Democrats are either neck and neck — the new Public Policy Institute of California poll gives her a statistically insignificant 46 percent (compared to Sanders’s 44 percent) lead in a telephone survey of 552 likely Democratic primary voters — or she’s comfortably ahead — 51 to 38 percent, in a just-out Hoover Institution web-only poll of 1,196 likelies (the key Field Poll: out shortly).
A pretty big hint of where Clinton thinks things stand may be gleaned from her updated campaign schedule: At press time, she suddenly canceled campaign events in New Jersey, which votes the same day as California, to head back to the Golden State.
WHO WILL VOTE: The presidential primary results, along with Santa Barbara’s closely watched 24th Congressional District, depend, of course, on what the demographic makeup of the electorate is.
Key variables: The Hoover poll shows Clinton wins huge majorities among registered Democrats (53 to 36 percent) and older voters (63 to 22 percent). However, Sanders runs far ahead among those younger than 30 (61 to 30 percent) and independent, “no party preference” voters (67 to 27 percent). If a statewide voter registration surge, including in Santa Barbara County, rests largely on millennials and independents, as some well-informed propeller heads believe, those numbers may be read as helping Bernie.
The twist: While Republicans do not allow independents to vote in their presidential primary, Democrats do — if these so-called No Party Preference voters request a presidential ballot. This dynamic has led to complaints by independent voters around the state; a further complication is that tens of thousands of nonpartisans, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation, mistakenly registered with the right-wing American Independent Party, a remnant of the group set up in the 1960s in part to boost the candidacy of segregationist George Wallace.
Bottom line: The more procedural difficulty pro-Sanders independents encounter, the more Clinton benefits.
WHAT WOULD JERRY DO? Clinton should gain around the margins from Governor Jerry Brown’s just-announced endorsement: “This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other,” he wrote. Casting his move in practical terms, Brown said Clinton “has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda.”
Along with trashing Trump, he also praised Sanders, however, adding a note of nostalgia for his own defiant 1992 populist challenge to Bill Clinton a quarter-century ago:
“He has driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth, leaving the majority of people far behind. In 1992, I attempted a similar campaign.”
So there’s that.