Next Tuesday is the last big day of the 2016 presidential primary election calendar, and California is the biggest delegate prize of the day. In fact, California is by far the biggest prize of all. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will do battle for 475 delegates, not including 73 superdelegates, and Republican Donald Trump’s clear path means he stands to get all of the 172 GOP delegates in the state. Election Projection will be posting the California primary results as the returns come in on Tuesday evening. You’ll find here results from the other five nominating contests on tap that day as well. So be sure to visit EP on Tuesday.
For Republicans hoping to stop Trump from earning the majority of GOP delegates before the convention, California was supposed to be the culmination of that effort. But his overwhelming victories along the way, including his back-breaking win in Indiana which caused his final two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, to drop out, has transformed this huge election into an afterthought. Were the GOP nomination still undecided, I would have used this post to explain how California’s GOP primary actually consists of 53 separate mini-elections in addition to the statewide election. I would have explained all the different conditions, restrictions and caveats that surround how the California GOP awards its delegates. But, alas, since Trump is the presumed nominee, I’ll just point you to that information and move on to the Democratic race.
The blue team’s battle for the nomination has been in a state of being “nearly-decided” for some time now. Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the Democratic delegate count, both among pledged and unpledged delegates. I’ve maintained for months that this is, despite a spirited challenge from Sanders, her nomination. I still hold that position, but I do recognize that nothing is yet set in stone. That said, the numbers are in her favor in a big way. The top line, which includes superdelegates, shows she needs around 100 more delegates to secure the majority. With 694 pledged delegates up for grabs next Tuesday alone, she’ll get to that mark without lifting another finger.
But, as I’ve examined before, her lead is also formidable among just pledged delegates. She leads these bound delegates by 270 with just 781 left to be claimed. That means she needs just 33% to surpass the “hard-delegate” majority (no supers included). And if the latest California primary polls are correct, she’ll be able to accomplish that with her delegate haul in the Golden State alone. I guess the one caveat about the foregone conclusion of a Hillary nomination is the polls’ less-than-admirable track record. Many times so far this year, they underestimated Sanders’ support and caused some unexpected results. Nevertheless, the mountain Clinton has been able to build that Sanders must now overcome is much too high, especially with so little time left.
Since Democrats award delegates on a proportional basis, it is mathematically impossible for Sanders to enjoy substantial gains against Clinton’s delegate lead. There are simply not enough delegates still outstanding. So no matter who wins the remaining primaries, Hillary will run out the clock and win the nomination. And even though I predict the polls are wrong again and she’ll lose California on Tuesday by a small margin, she’ll capture the majority anyway, among all delegates and among pledged delegates as well.