PRESENTING YOUR CALIFORNIA PRIMARY FIELD GUIDE
SAN DIEGO – Heading into today’s California Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders pushed hard to forge through the rough terrain of the West in an effort to strike gold on the California coast.
But it’s looking more like the Donner party than the lucky 49ers.
Although today’s contest could be very close, California has always been solid territory for the Clintons in the past and this cycle is looking to be no different.
Hillary Clinton may see a narrower margin than the 8-point victory against then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, but her pull with the state’s large swath of Hispanic voters combined with her stronger performances among older, better-educated voters, means she’s likely to win.
And so she’d better!
As of Monday, Clinton has claimed delegate majority and her party’s nomination. But today very much matters for momentum and narrative.
A Clinton win in the Golden State would officially shut down the Sanders machine. Though some may continue on with calls of unfair rules and issues with superdelegates, the rest of the Democratic Party, looking at facing Donald Trump, will coalesce for the sake of a November victory.
A big enough win could even take her to the nomination without relying on “superdelegates,” party elders who head to the Philadelphia convention technically unbound but substantially behind Clinton.
If Clinton loses today, however, her demand for Sanders to get out is much weaker, and his influence over her at the convention becomes stronger.
But Nate Silver’s argument as to how she won the nomination will be what gives her the likely win for today: More Democrats will vote for her. Yes, the margins will likely be closer than 2008 (see Nevada’s closer-than-expected results from a few months ago), but she has more pull with more voters in the state than Sanders.
For our final field guide of the 2016 cycle, let’s take a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway ahead of today’s California primary.
CALIFORNIA FIELD GUIDE
The politics of California is as diverse as the landscape: Booming cities, rough-riding cattle ranchers, coastal idylls, heart-swelling mountain vistas and desert wastelands.
But most of the voters live in and around the Bay Area in the central coast or Los Angeles and SoCal. And like the Giants and the Dodgers, they tend to disagree.
Bay Area: Baking for Bernie
The most “loyally liberal” part of the state, according to the Public Policy Institute of California’s 2012 study, is where Barack Obama did the best in 2008 and where Bernie Sanders will see his berniest bros come out for him.
Within the Bay Area, however, there is a split. In 2008, San Francisco County and Alameda County, two of the three most populous counties in the region, both went for Obama, but Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley calls home in South San Francisco Bay, went for Clinton.
There will be a strong cohort of Bernie loyalists that recall the heydays of Haight-Ashbury and will come out in droves for the socialist who spent time in a hippie commune. And there’s the new age wave of eco-friendly, reusable-bag toting Millennials who think redistributing wealth is a swell idea from their studio apartments on Telegraph Hill.
But Clinton’s strongest pull in this part of California is Donald Trump. It’s hard to imagine how Trump could have helped Clinton more in the final week of the primaries than by repeated declaring germane the ethnicity of a federal judge presiding over a fraud suit against Trump for allegedly ripping off vets, single moms and the elderly with a fake college.
Los Angeles: Stars shine for Hillary
The City of Angels has the largest vote share in the state’s Democratic primary, accounting for 25 percent of today’s vote share. Eight years ago, Clinton won Los Angeles County by over 13 points in the last Democratic primary, and back in 1992, her husband also won the county by 13 points against once-and-future California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Nearly half of the county is Hispanic, a group which came out for Clinton in Nevada earlier this year and has seen a sharp uptick in voter registration both in the state and nationwide.
Again, Trump does Clinton’s work for her.
This region of California and further south into Orange County and San Diego County tend to be the more conservative parts of the deep blue state and account for less Democratic primary votes.
These areas are among the wealthiest in the state and are not inclined towards Sandersian economics. Clinton won both Orange and San Diego counties in 2008 with a sweep of Southern California. She will likely perform similarly today.
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