Could Bernie Sanders Take the Nomination If He Wins California?

California could be Bernie Sanders' Hail Mary

Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

We’ve known that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for nearly a month now, but on the left side of the race, things haven’t tied themselves up quite as quickly.

Though Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is still in the race, many have all but declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Sanders himself – and his most strident supporters, however, still see hope. That hope is California primary on Tuesday. It’s a major primary, with a whooping 548 delegates at stake. (To put that number in perspective, New York, the state with the second largest number of delegates, has 247.)

But even with 500-plus delegates up for grabs, does a Sanders win in California clear his path to victory at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer? It’s not quite so simple.

What are the chances he’ll win California?
First thing’s first: Does Sanders even have a chance of winning the delegate-rich state? It’s ultimately just a slim one. The most recent polls show Clinton beating Sanders in nearly every matchup, but it varies in how much she’ll do so. In the KABC/Survey poll, Clinton is beating Sanders by as much as 18 points. In the Hoover/Golden State poll, she’s leading by 13 points. Her advantage in the FOX News and PPIC polls, however, is a bit smaller.

Sanders has certainly gained momentum in the Golden State over the past few weeks. In May, he held a rally for an estimated crowd of 15,000 in Sacramento, according to ABC News.

However, the odds are still stacked against him. In order for his win to really hurt Clinton’s chances, he’d have to win California by a large margin – and to reach a delegate majority overall, he needs to win 67 percent of the remaining delegates. Polls plus past primaries and caucuses all indicate that there is a very slim chance of that actually happening.

Why Did Bernie Sanders Wag His Finger at Hillary Clinton?

Could Sanders win the nomination if he wins California?
Numerically, the odds are stacked against him. For Sanders to reach the “magic number” of 2,383 delegates (the number a candidate must have to clinch the nomination), he must win 92 percent of the remaining delegates.

At this point, it’s near impossible for Sanders to find victory before Philadelphia. But there, he may be able to. How? Well, if he wins California, Clinton’s sure-thing factor will be weakened, the Wall Street Journal‘s Douglas E. Schoen argues. This, Schoen says, could make the superdelegates wary of Clinton’s chances in a general election – and could sway them to move to Sanders’ side.

Another point in his favor? In the past few weeks, more and more polls have shown that Sanders would be a stronger candidate against Trump in the general election. Clinton and Trump have been within a few points of one another in recent polls, according to Real Clear Politics, while Sanders is ahead by about 10 points.

Ultimately, the key to Sanders winning the nomination will come from – you guessed it – the superdelegates.

How do the superdelegates play into this?
If he wants to clinch the nomination, superdelegates will be essential. Reminder: Superdelegates are Democratic bigwigs who are free to support any candidate they choose. Right now, Clinton has the support of 543 of them, a giant lead over Sanders’ 44.

In recent weeks, Sanders has been trying to sway more superdelegates. If enough superdelegates switch over to Sanders’ side, he could, hypothetically, win the nomination. However, Clinton has won the majority of the votes, so if the majority of the superdelegates were to switch over to Sanders, they would be overriding the popular vote – which is exactly what Sanders says some superdelegates are doing now.

So what does this all mean?
Yes, Sanders just may win California. But that’s not likely to make the outcome of the DNC’s convention in Philadelphia any different.

But still, he could.

And it seems that until that “could” has completely been quashed, Sanders will stay in the race.

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