California Primary: Sanders Fights for Win, Clinton Nears Clinch

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (David McNew / Justin Sullivan / Getty)
David McNew / Justin Sullivan / Getty

SANTA MONICA — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a moment on Sunday to visit briefly with his grandchildren at the Santa Monica Pier, where they rode the wooden horses on the near-century-old carousel that is still a favorite among local children.

It was a brief pause in what has been a grand, grueling odyssey across the Golden State — the kind of campaign that would tire a man half Sanders’s age, and which his rival, Hillary Clinton, did not try to match, even with her husband as a surrogate.

Clinton, instead, relied on her traditional strength — her support from the party’s institutional foundation, including unions, black churches, women’s groups, and immigrant advocacy groups. She spoke at Sunday services in Oakland at the Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, and appeared at a rally in Sacramento — drawing only 1,200 supporters, as opposed to the 5,000 that Donald Trump had drawn the week before, and the 15,000 (at least) that Sanders drew there the month before.

As the saying goes, yard signs — and rallies — don’t vote. Clinton needs fewer than 30 delegates from California and the other handful of small states that will be voting on Tuesday to clinch the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. An early favorite to win in California, she is thought to lead among early voters, who have been mailing in their ballots for weeks. Yet she could lose among Election Day voters, or even lose overall, and it would not matter: she will be the party’s nominee.

It is unclear what Sanders expects Tuesday to bring. A win would be a great come-from-behind victory, as well as a symbolic triumph for his “democratic socialism,” and would undermine Clinton’s attempt to claim a mandate from her party. Sanders has vowed to press his case at the Democratic National Convention in July, urging “superdelegates” — on whom Clinton must rely for her majority — to switch.

Or he could just take a victory lap and end on a high.

Tomorrow, America will know.