Tuesday June 7 marks the much heralded California presidential primary. Nearly 18 million voters are registered to participate in the primary with 650,000 having registered to vote in the last 45 days. The 2016 California presidential primary represents the state’s highest statewide voter registration before a primary, with 72% of the California population registered. The State represents 475 delegates for the Democrats and 172 for the Republicans.
For Hillary Clinton, the presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, California was previously perceived to be an easy win. After all, she appeared to have a fire wall in the state. However, Bernie Sanders’s recent run of primary victories have made Mrs. Clinton’s win in the Golden State less of a certainty. According to a recent USC/Los Angeles Times poll, the former secretary of state and the Vermont Senator are running neck and neck in the California primary with Sanders at 44% and Clinton at 43%. Clinton has the advantage over Sanders with likely voters carrying 49 % vs. Sanders at 39%. She is also leading Sanders 53% vs. 37% among registered Democrats. Clinton still maintains her strongholds which include white voters over 50 where she leads 56% to 32% and minority voters over 50 where she leads 64%-20%. Clinton also benefits from the gender card with 76% of women Democrat voters having a favorable view of her vs. 2/3 of male Democrat voters.
On the other hand, in California, Sanders is able to leverage rules which allow registered non-voters to vote in the Democratic primary. Among likely non-partisan California voters, Sanders leads Clinton 48% to 35%. As he is elsewhere, Sanders is also incredibly popular with young California voters where he leads Clinton 62-27% among white voters under 50. Sanders is also leading Clinton among minority voters under 50 59%-32%. (http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-latimes-presidential-primary-poll-20160602-snap-story.html)
The bottom line for California is that it is all about the turn out. If the Sanders campaign successfully gets a sizeable percentage of his supporters to the polls, he stands a viable chance of clinching the California primary. By contrast, if his get out the vote efforts are not that successful, the state will go to Clinton. Tuesday also marks the June 7 New Jersey primary where 142 Democratic delegates are up for grabs. According to Fivethirtyeight, Clinton who is polling at a weighted average of 58.8% vs. Sanders at 38.2% has a 98% chance of winning the New Jersey Democratic Primary. (http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/primary-forecast/new-jersey-democratic/#polls-only
If Clinton has victories in both California and New Jersey, the race for Sanders will be ostensibly over. Clinton who already has 2,323 delegates will have no trouble garnering the 2383 delegates needed for the nomination. The Democratic establishment will resume their pressure on Sanders to drop out of the race. However, if Sanders takes California and perhaps some of the other state primaries taking place on June 7 (North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota also have June 7 primaries), all bets are off. It will be a Clinton/Sanders fight all the way to the July 25th convention. Sanders is already pivoting his campaign towards converting some of Clinton’s super delegates to support him.
Then, of course, the questions turn to the general election. The Hillary Clinton Campaign maintains that their candidate has the greatest likelihood of defeating Donald Trump in the general election. However, her success relies on converting Sanders’ supporters. According to a May 24 ABC Poll, 69% of Bernie Sanders’s supporters would support Clinton in a general election, and 20% would support Donald Trump. The 20% for Trump is noteworthy in that it reflects an increase over the March poll where only 9% of Sanders’ supporters said that they would vote for Trump. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/05/24/how-likely-are-bernie-sanders-supporters-to-actually-vote-for-donald-trump-here-are-some-clues/)
June 7 will be a big day in the Golden State. It may very well represent the “sea change” moment for the Democratic ticket.