Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are blitzing California on an intense final day of campaigning in the 2016 Democratic primary.
The former secretary of state on Tuesday is expected to become the first female presumptive nominee of a major party — a feat that will likely raise pressure on Sanders to drop his bid quickly. The Vermont senator has been loathe to discuss exiting the race — even raising the potential over the weekend of a contested convention — but struck a more subdued note Monday.
“Let me just talk to you after the primary here in California, where we hope to win,” Sanders told reporters at a news conference. “Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation.”
He didn’t once mention the word “Philadelphia” — home of this year’s Democratic convention — during the news conference.
But amid clear signs that Democratic Party grandees are moving to shut down the campaign after Tuesday, a party source told CNN that President Barack Obama spoke to Sanders by phone on Tuesday. Two other Democratic sources, meanwhile, said the President is poised to deliver his endorsement of Clinton as early as this week.
For her part, Clinton focused on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who is under fire for repeatedly accusing a judge overseeing a lawsuit involving Trump University of bias because of his Mexican heritage. Trump added to the controversy Sunday by saying he would have similar concerns if a Muslim judge supervised the case.
“I’m waiting for him to say because of all the bigoted things he has said about women that a woman judge couldn’t preside,” Clinton told a lunchtime crowd near Los Angeles. “By the time he’s finished, nobody’s going to be left in this country that he is going to have exempted from insults.”
The Clinton-Sanders battle is playing out far longer than most would have predicted at the beginning of the campaign season. With his critique of economic inequality, Sanders, a 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has become the unlikely hero of the young, progressive Democratic base. Still, Clinton is on the verge of the nomination after she dominated contests in the South and won large states including New York and Pennsylvania.
Clinton’s victory in Sunday’s Puerto Rico primary left her just 26 delegates shy of being declared the presumptive Democratic nominee, a milestone she will easily clear in the contests playing out in six states Tuesday. Clinton is likely to pass the magic number of 2,383 delegates soon after the polls close in New Jersey. That means that California’s primary may serve as a litmus test of the party’s interest in Sanders’ liberal policies — even if it won’t sway the outcome of the nomination.