If you know me even a little, you know that I hold the website 538 in the absolute highest regard. Maybe it's because I've never been good at math so I'm easily convinced by statistics and models that I don't fully understand, maybe it's because the site predicts elections correctly the vast majority of the time, or maybe it's because I'm widely known as the Nate Silver of Oscar Predictions, so I feel a certain kinship.*
So when a journalist from 538 tweeted that Clinton would probably secure the nomination before the polls even closed in California, I had a vision of the future where people were complaining that she "stole the election" because they called if for her before the people of California even decided. This blog post is here to explain why that's not the case.
To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate needs 2,383 delegates. Right now, Clinton has 1,769 pledged delegates and Sanders has 1,501. Seems like neither candidate is that close to the nomination, especially when you factor in the 694 delegates at stake in the primary on June 7th. However, the 538 Delegate Tracker doesn't count superdelegates, as they have the ability to change their mind right up until the convention in July.
But if you do count superdelegates, it places Clinton far closer to the nomination. Clinton has 544 superdelegates, for a total of 2,313 delegates overall, and Sanders has 45, for a total of 1,546. With superdelegates, Clinton needs around 70 pledged delegates to secure the nomination, and with the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands votes this weekend, where over 60 delegates are in play, it's highly likely she will make a dent in that number.
So going into the June 7th contest, Clinton will have picked up more delegates. The majority of polls show her winning New Jersey, where 126 pledged delegates are at stake. With the pledged delegates from Puerto Rico, and the pledged delegates in New Jersey, she may very well secure enough delegates (super and regular) to win the nomination, without even counting California. That means that at 8pm Jersey-time (5pm California time, before the polls close) news networks may call the nomination for Clinton.
"But Bella!" you say. "She's not really that close to winning the nomination because she's relying on undemocratic superdelegates! Regardless, we're headed for a contested convention!" To you I say, that's not what a contested convention means. A contested convention is when no one has a majority of delegates in any way. It would be like if both Sanders and Clinton had 2,000 delegates each, and the rest of the delegates couldn't pick a side. That's a contested convention. Just because someone doesn't have a majority of pledged delegates doesn't mean it's a contested convention. And Clinton isn't the first person to clinch the nomination by relying on superdelegates.
"BUT BELLA!" you say again. "If Sanders wins in a landslide, some superdelegates will surely support him! They all want to support him anyway, and if he proves he's a winner they will switch from Hillary to Bernie and he will have enough delegates to win!"
You're not wrong, hypothetical friend. A strong showing on June 7th may compel superdelegates to support Sanders. And laying aside the fact that you now want to rely on something you previously considered undemocratic, this would be enough for him to win the nomination. But hundreds of superdelegates changing their support is a Hail Mary pass, not a likely outcome.
Is it "voter suppression" to call the election for Clinton before the California polls have closed? I'll be honest, I wish that the media would wait until the California polls have closed before doing anything, but I wish that the media did a lot of things differently. And voters in California should remember that even if the media calls the election, their vote still matters, and they can still make a difference with their vote. But I don't think you can say that the media declaring Clinton the winner is voter suppression. If, by 5pm California time she has more than 2,383 delegates, then mathematically, she is the presumptive nominee, and people have the right to report that fact.
This is all to say, should the primary election be called for Clinton before California voting has happened, it's not a plot by the Clinton camp to stop Sanders from winning California. It's a reflection of the fact that, mathematically, she won the election, independent of any result in California. But if you have any questions or opinions on Tuesday, you know where to find me!
*I mean "widely known" in the sense that I hope it becomes widely known, as I am the absolute best at Oscar Predictions.