Bernie Sanders says that if he wins California’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, he will take his fight for the nomination all the way to the July convention in Philadelphia. He has even suggested that he might do so regardless of the outcome.
Either would be a mistake of historic proportions. Sanders has no argument, moral or mathematical, that could justify such a misstep, leaving an act of ego as its only motivation. Because regardless of what happens Tuesday, Clinton will end the campaign season leading Sanders by every metric that could possibly matter, and it won’t even be all that close.
According to the Associated Press, Hillary Clinton now needs fewer than 30 delegates to reach the 2,383 required to clinch the nomination. Five states have caucuses or primaries scheduled for the final Tuesday of the primary campaign; the two largest are New Jersey, offering 126 pledged delegates, and California with another 475. Delegates in both states will be awarded proportionately.
Clinton enjoys a consistent 20-point lead in New Jersey polling. Even if that polling proves wrong, she is still guaranteed to come out of New Jersey with those final 30 delegates in her pocket, plus plenty to spare, before they even start to count the votes on the West Coast.
Forget the controversial superdelegates. Clinton enters the last day of the process with almost 290 more earned delegates than Sanders. Even with a great night, battling Clinton to an unlikely draw in New Jersey and winning California, Bernie cannot close that margin by much.
TOTAL VOTES CAST:
Clinton also enjoys an overall lead of 3 million actual votes cast in this year’s caucuses and primaries, and again, there is no feasible outcome Tuesday that could substantially alter that lead. (The earned-delegate and total-vote numbers do not include the weekend’s results in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where votes are still being tallied but where Clinton won easily.)
MOMENTUM: The Sanders campaign likes to claim that it has gathered strength late in the process, but the numbers say otherwise. In the last 11 contests — again excluding the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — Clinton has won 627,000 more votes than Sanders and earned 63 more delegates. The truth is that Clinton has actually closed pretty well.
THE MORAL ARGUMENT: Earlier in the campaign, Sanders would rail against the role played by superdelegates in the Democratic Party process, complaining that it was deeply unfair and anti-democratic to allow unelected delegates to potentially overturn the voice of the people. His argument made sense, and it dovetailed perfectly with his role as the people’s challenger against the establishment and against a rigged system.
The Sanders camp now asks us to forget all that, claiming that superdelegates have every right and indeed the obligation to overturn the clear will of the voters by voting against Clinton at the convention. In short, they tell us that it is now fine to rig the system as long as it’s rigged on their behalf. That is not a good look, to say the least.
In her campaign against Barack Obama eight years ago, Hillary Clinton also continued to fight long after the math had turned solidly against her. She is a person of considerable ego herself, and like Sanders, she had a hard time admitting to her campaign staff and volunteers, and to herself, that the end had come. Writing at the time, I accused her of “breathing the fumes of the campaign bus for too long.”
Finally — in a speech delivered eight years ago tomorrow, on June 7, 2008 — Clinton conceded a bitter campaign with grace, and by example showed her followers the course to take:
“The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States. Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him…. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: ‘Yes, we can!’
Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.”