All the latest polls suggest that Hillary Clinton is heading for sizable wins in delegate-rich Pennsylvania and Maryland tomorrow, which probably means that scrutiny of Sanders’s true intentions for the endgame of the nomination process will only intensify.
But it’s now becoming obvious that Sanders is, if anything,ratcheting down expectations for this endgame. One potentially key tell was on display in the four interviews that Sanders gave yesterday to the Sunday Shows: One on ABC, one on CBS, one on NBC, and one on CNN.
In every one of them, Sanders repeated variations of the formulation: “We’re going to take our campaign through California.” “We intend to take the fight all the way through California.” “We’re in this race to California.” “We’re going to fight for every last vote until California and the D.C. primary.” In other words, Sanders promised to battle until the final votes are cast, which he has every reason and incentive to do.
But this appears less ambitious than what Sanders telegraphed only a week ago. Last Sunday he was asked directly whether he would take the contest “all the way to the floor in Philadelphia,” and he replied: “Yup.” Last week Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver flatly stated: “We’re going to go to the convention.”
That's definitely a step backwards for the Sanders campaign, and it's coming from Sanders himself, in four different interviews on Sunday. That's not accidental.
So what now?
Of course, one cannot dismiss the possibility that Sanders might still try to battle for the nomination on the convention floor. But all of the above is much more consistent with an endgame in which Sanders fights on until the voting is completed, makes one last push for super-delegates to switch, discovers they aren’t willing to do so, and then enters into serious unity talks over how he might influence the convention proceedings and the Democratic Party’s agenda in the fall campaign.
At that point, the question of how the Clinton campaign, not just the Sanders campaign, handles the conclusion to this whole process will play a big role in influencing what happens. It’s still unclear whether the Clinton camp will see a need to make any concessions to Sanders in order to win over his supporters and unite the party. But it will be in the interests of Clinton and the Democratic Party to ensure that this process goes as smoothly as possible. They’ll likely conclude that there is greater risk in not making any meaningful gestures towards unity than in making them. What this might look like is the subject of a future post.
The polls are showing that Clinton could get as many as 250 to 300 of those 462 delegates. If we split the difference and call it 275, that would get her to over 1,700 pledged delegates and 2,200 with super delegates, which means she'd only need about 150 more to hit the 2,383 she would need to win.
She could get that with 276 delegates up for grabs in May in Indiana, West Virginia, Guam, Oregon, and yes, here in Kentucky.
In other words, Clinton could very well have the 2,383 delegates she needs before California and New Jersey on June 7. So unless you think Bernie will somehow magically get 100% of the California vote, he's done.
Frankly, this race was over back on Super Tuesday on March 15.
So let's get on with the cleanup stage so we can take out the GOP, guys.