But by AP’s calculation, the numbers have now spoken, and Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee for 2016.
Clinton posted a decisive win on Sunday in the Puerto Rico primary, which left her only 30-odd short of the 2,383 committed votes she needs to clinch the nomination. AP now reports, just this evening, that a fascinatingly timed “burst” of superdelegate support has put her over the top. As of Monday evening, about 15 hours before the polls open in California on Tuesday, AP updated the Hillary delegate count to 2,383. (New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and the Dakotas vote on Tuesday as well.)
Suspicious minds are likely to see this as a development touted by the DNC — and probably brought about through arm-twisting superdelegates — just in time to discourage Bernie Sanders voters. California is to be Bernie’s big stand: if he can win by a meaningful margin in California, he could have some justification for trying to contest the nomination in Philadelphia, even if Hillary has the magic delegate number locked in.
We’ll see. One has the sense that the surge for Bernie doesn’t quite reach the level of widespread fervor required to deliver a thumping defeat to Hillary in the Golden State — and didn’t reach it even before today’s breaking news. Recent polls showed Sanders and Clinton neck and neck in California. But it’s not clear that California’s political atmosphere is right for producing the kind of groundswell for Bernie — a groundswell that outstripped prior polling results — seen on voting day in states like Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington, and Oregon.
That said, the Democrats have reason to be concerned about Hillary carrying their standard. Her negatives with the American public range from worse than Donald Trump’s to nearly as bad. She is dogged by serious performance and character scandals, from Benghazi to Email-gate to the unregenerate, thermonuclear cronyism of “Clinton Cash.”
And Hillary’s health may well be an underreported but serious concern (see here as well). Banking on her appears to meaningfully increase the probability that the Democrats will see their candidate collapse in public between now and November.
The DNC leadership has been reported to be worried about Hillary’s negatives, and looking for back-ups, since at least the early fall of 2015. She would by no means be a bitter pill for the Democratic “establishment” to swallow, as Trump is for the top levels of the GOP. But the “enthusiasm gap” for Hillary is marked, and it’s had top Democrats looking to Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and others for months.
Not an auspicious set of conditions for Hillary. There are still plenty of cheerleaders in the media for her. But there’s also an inescapable sense that she represents something tired and old — something that doesn’t seem safe anymore, or desirable; something not worth any effort to preserve. Hillary represents the continuation of where we are, in a way no other candidate has in 2016. And where we are sucks.