Twenty-four years after he bitterly fought Bill Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Monday morning.
In a statement posted to his campaign website on Tuesday morning, Brown had words of praise for Bernie Sanders who “has driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth.” “In 1992,” Brown adds, “I attempted a similar campaign.”
So why is he backing Clinton? Simple. She will be the party’s nominee.
He wasn’t without praise for Clinton’s experience and expertise, but the crux of his case is clearly that he’s respecting the will of the party. “Voters have responded [to Clinton’s campaign] by giving her approximately 3 million more votes – and hundreds more delegates – than Sanders,” Brown wrote. “Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee.”
He’s correct. One week from tonight, probably even before California’s polls close, Hillary Clinton will have clinched the Democratic nomination. As it stands, per Associated Press estimates, Clinton has 1,769 pledged delegates — delegates allocated through voting results — and 541 superdelegates for a total of 2,310. That’s 73 delegates short of what she needs to clinch. Sanders’s totals are 1,499 pledged delegates and 43 superdelegates, for a total of 1,542.
Brown notes that Clinton only needs to win 10 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to clinch — which is slightly high. If she wins 58 percent of the vote in New Jersey, where she leads, she clinches. If she wins 40 percent of the vote in every non-California state that votes next Tuesday, she clinches. If she gets zero votes in every state but gets 15 percent of the vote in California, she clinches. Brown’s argument is a dispassionate one, but it’s accurate: The race is basically already over.
Over the weekend, an image circulated on Twitter showing how the math stacked up for Clinton regardless of how delegates were assigned. Here’s our tally of how a number of metrics break down:*
The state of the race before June 7, if:
For good measure, the table also included the popular vote, which Clinton leads by about 2.9 million votes.
There’s only one metric under which Clinton isn’t almost certain to clinch next Tuesday: a scenario in which you use the existing rules for pledged delegates and ignore the preference of the superdelegates for now. Under that scenario, the one Sanders focuses on, Clinton needs 79 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to clinch outright. (Sanders can’t clinch under this scenario.)
Sanders’s team and its backers have been priming the pump on this argument. The current iteration of the How Sanders Wins argument is that a victory in California paired with Sanders’s strength in head-to-head polling against Trump and Clinton’s high unfavorable ratings will convince superdelegates to abandon Clinton before the convention. At that point, Sanders will win the nomination thanks to the party leaders setting aside the popular vote and Clinton’s wide pledged-delegate lead.
There are a number of problems with that argument as we apparently need to keep pointing out. One big one is that, so far, there hasn’t been a rush of superdelegates to back Sanders’s candidacy. Sanders started hypothesizing about superdelegates wanting to flip back in March. Since, there has been a superdelegate flip — from Sanders to Clinton. Unless I missed a recent news story, none have flipped from Clinton to Sanders. (By this point eight years ago, superdelegates were moving strongly to Barack Obama, though the bulk of those that switched did so after Clinton dropped out.)
Another problem is that in the RealClearPolitics average of polls in California, Clinton still leads by 8 points. A poll released Tuesday put Clinton’s lead at 13. Sanders has outperformed polls in a number of states, so a win in California is by no means impossible (and a poll last week had him within two). But rather than suggesting that Sanders is the dominant choice of Democrats, it shows that the race continues to be a closely contested match-up between the two potential nominees.
It seems clear that the governor of California’s heart is with Bernie Sanders, probably in part because of his longstanding feud with the Clintons. His decision appears to have come down to whether or not to bolster the continued challenge to the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, and he chose not to.
In 1992, by the way, Brown’s challenge to Clinton lasted until the first voting in June, when Bill Clinton clinched a majority of delegates. Brown had to settle for a speech during the convention in New York — which he used to lament the aggregation of wealth in the upper class and the growth of money in politics.
* Since the AP allocation comes up two delegates short in Oregon, we used estimates for the state from Daniel Nichanian, which gives one delegate to each candidate.
** Speaking of Nichanian, his estimates at FiveThirtyEight provide the bulk of the numbers here. We’ve added results from Indiana (HRC 16, BS 67), Guam (HRC 7, BS 0), West Virginia (HRC 0, BS 29), Kentucky (HRC 26, BS 25) and Oregon (HRC 26, BS 35). The totals here include the existing superdelegates counts.