California has been for some time our largest state. It has also
seemed be in some ways almost another country whose
capital was Hollywood, and its leading city was San Francisco.
With its geologic faults and frequent small earthquakes, it is
always rumored to be on the brink of “the big one” which
thankfully has not yet come. It has heat, Hispanic legacy, and
glamor in the south which borders on Mexico, and snow and
rugged terrain in the north which borders on Oregon. It has the
continent’s greatest vineyards, and grows much of the rest of
the nation’s fresh produce. It sends the most members to the U.S.
house of representatives, but like every other state has only two
senators. Its population exceeds that of most sovereign nations
in the world, and its economy alone is among the planet’s largest.
By tradition, it holds its presidential primaries at the very end of
the political campaign season, and for this reason, it has not had
any appreciable influence on the choice of nominees of either
major political party for decades in spite of providing by far the
largest number of delegates to both national conventions. In the
post-World War II past, the nominees were usually determined
earlier in the process.
With no incumbent president running in 2016, it was thought
possible that California might play an important part in this
cycle in at least one of the contests. There were five announced
Democrats and seventeen announced Republicans. In the former
race, it quickly narrowed to two, Hillary Clinton (the long-time
favorite) and Bernie Sanders, the surprise challenger. In the GOP
race, the surprise candidate, Donald Trump. actually took an early
lead which he did not give up. His sixteen rivals narrowed to two,
and then there were none. Mrs. Clinton, with the critical help of
non-elected “super-delegates” has likewise virtually clinched her
So once again, California (already suffering from a great drought)
has been hung out to dry in the electoral process.
Or has it?
It is obvious that both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump will have at
least the minimum number of committed delegates before the
June 7 California primary. Mr. Trump no longer has any formal
opposition, so the results there likely will not make much
But what if Bernie Sanders, who has been winning almost all of
recent primaries, wins California?
The 400-plus Clinton super-delegates are only publicly committed
to her, but technically can vote for anyone they choose on the first
ballot in Philadelphia. Without most of them, Mrs. Clinton cannot
be nominated. Mr. Sanders, minus the super-delegates, is only
relatively few votes behind Mrs. Clinton.
Notwithstanding this hypothetical, Mrs. Clinton currently leads
in California, according to polls, by several points. She has the
endorsement of most California officials, and Mr. Sanders,
hitherto swimming in small donor contributions, now has much
more limited resources, a huge disadvantage in this big state.
Almost the entire Democratic party establishment is now pushing
for Mr. Sanders to withdraw.
Unlikely as it now seems, a Sanders win in California would be an
enormous upset, even in this season of upsets.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.