Today Hillary Clinton changed her schedule for the week, canceling an event Thursday in New Jersey and announcing a California swing that would last through the eve of the state’s delegate-rich primary.
Once considered an easy win for Clinton, California looks ripe for an embarrassment with rival Bernie Sanders gaining ground in the polls – with a survey out last week by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showing Clinton up by just two points, within the poll’s margin of error.
The former secretary of state doesn’t need to win the Golden State to clinch the Democratic nomination. In fact, she’ll likely officially have enough delegates before California’s polls close on the 7.
But optics count in politics and to lose such a big state at the end of the primary calendar could leave her hobbling, not strutting, into the Democratic National Convention in July.
In part because of its delegate haul and in part because of his financial situation, Sanders has thrown all of his campaign’s eggs in the California basket.
Sanders, this cycle’s best fundraiser, found himself at the beginning of May with just $5.8 million in hand, having blown through $160 million between January and April, according to the Huffington Post.
In turn, he’s stayed on the West coast and engaged in a barnstorming tour by motorcade, holding multiple rallies per day, while participating in free media hits.
Sanders appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this week and was interviewed by Bill Maher. He stopped at Puff Daddy’s Revolt TV studios in Hollywood to participate in a town hall event with college students.
He made news by attacking Disney in Anaheim, California, just a block down from Disneyland. ‘Is anybody making a living wage at Disney?’ he asked, surveying his crowd.
Each of his crowds attracted numbers in the thousands. And each time he spoke he made the same general point about the state.
‘If we win California big we’re going to go marching into the Democratic convention with a lot of momentum. And if we go marching into the Democratic convention with a lot of momentum we’re going to march out with a Democratic nomination,’ Sanders said.
‘And if we march out with the Democratic nomination, Donald Trump is toast,’ Sanders said.
Clinton also spent time in California last week, campaigning alongside actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
She blushed and said, ‘it is a little distracting,’ when her Anaheim audience included two bare-chested bros.
The Clinton fans – John Nelson and Dan Stifler – had drawn messages on their chests, one with the Hillary ‘H’ and the other that said, ‘Hill is Perfect.’
Besides this colorful moment, Clinton’s time in the state was tainted with the release of the State Department inspector general’s report, which faulted her for using a private email server.
She avoided talking to reporters about the report for 24 hours, finally doing a bevvy of news interviews Thursday night.
On Friday, the Clinton campaign started running ads in the media markets of Los Angeles, Fresco and Sacramento, while the former secretary of state zipped back to the East coast.
Clinton avoided the Sunday shows, opting to be photographed today in her adopted hometown of Chappaqua, New York, walking alongside husband Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the town’s Memorial Day parade.
Meanwhile her campaign sent out released to the press noting that Clinton was canceling New Jersey and heading early to California.
The state’s highly diverse racial makeup should be a boon for Clinton, but the younger voters in the state could help Sanders across the line.
Additionally, independents can vote in the Democratic primary in the Golden State, as long as they register to do so.
The state has seen a surge in registrations – more than 850,000 – which could also indicate a more pro-Sanders crowd.
Sanders spent his Sunday answering questions about his fate in the state.
On Meet the Press for instance, Sanders referred to California as the ‘big enchilada.’
‘Obviously it is enormously important, and obviously we want to win it,’ he said. ‘But let me tell you something, you know, my campaign has been written off from before we started.’
‘Nobody thought we would do anything. We’ve now won 20 states, primaries and caucuses, and I think by the end of the process, we may win half of the states,’ Sanders continued.
‘So I think we’re going to fight ’til the last vote is cast and try to appeal to the last delegate that we can,’ Sanders added.
Though the Vermont senator wouldn’t say if losing California would signal the end of his campaign.
‘Obviously, if we don’t do well in California, it will make our path much much harder. No question about that,’ Sanders relented. ‘But I think we have a good chance of winning California, maybe win big, and maybe win four or five other states that are off on June 7.’
After June 7, only Washington, D.C.’s primary is left with Democrats voting there on June 14.