Democrats appear ready to bring the curtain down on the tumultuous primary struggle between Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint Restless progressives eye 2024 MORE — irrespective of the results Tuesday in California’s primary.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest signaled at Monday’s regular media briefing that President Obama is on board with the Clinton team’s argument that the battle for the presidential nomination is as good as over.
“We’re going to give Democratic voters the opportunity to weigh in. But certainly somebody who claims a majority of the pledged and superdelegates, you know, has a strong case to make,” Earnest said.
And on Monday night, The Associated Press updated its delegate count to reflect that Clinton had secured the 2,383 pledged delegates needed for the nomination.
Sources in the administration say Obama could endorse Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, as early as this week, and a front-page report in The New York Times on Monday morning said Obama was itching to get off the sidelines and into the race.
On Saturday, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Restless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (D-Mass.), a political heavyweight in the party, also pointedly said, “I don’t think that superdelegates ought to sway the election,” according to MassLive.
Warren’s comments could be seen as a message to Sanders, whose argument for staying in the race rests on superdelegates flipping their support from Clinton to his campaign.
Obama and other Democrats seem keen to rally behind Clinton against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE, who on Monday looked more vulnerable than he has in weeks.
Republicans on Monday continued to pile on with criticism of Trump’s pointed remarks about a judge overseeing two class-action lawsuits against Trump University. Even some allies have blasted the real estate tycoon for saying the judge is biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.
Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said that, aside from people active within the Sanders campaign, “there are very few people who are ready to see this nomination get dragged out any further.”
“It is pretty clear who our nominee is going to be, and most Democrats are ready to get Hillary Clinton out there battling Donald Trump every day,” he said.
Sanders himself appeared to adjust his tone even as he battles for a victory in California, where polls show a neck and neck race with Clinton.
While insisting adamantly that he was focused on winning the Golden State — and performing strongly in the five other states where Democrats will vote on Tuesday — the Vermont senator also said, in terms of the broader race, “Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow.”
It was a sharp contrast with comments he made Saturday promising that the “Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention.”
Over the weekend, Sanders reportedly held a phone call with Obama, according to NBC News.
While the White House has offered no direct confirmation of a plan to endorse Clinton, many Democrats are reading the tea leaves and concluding that Obama is starting to bring his weight to bear on behalf of his former secretary of State.
A prolonged fight leading into the party’s national convention in Philadelphia in late July could hamper the general election campaign against Trump.
A decision by Sanders to bow to the nearly inevitable would come as a major relief to many Democrats, especially those within Clinton’s orbit who have begun to feel an acute irritation with his persistence.
“The people have spoken,” said Eric Jotkoff, who served as an aide on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Even before tomorrow, she already has 3 million more votes more than Bernie Sanders. I get it. It’s never fun to lose. But at some point, the crowd leaves the stadium, the band stops playing and it’s over.”
Sanders aides argue that Clinton should not be described as the presumptive nominee because superdelegates will not cast their votes until the convention in July.
"They won't vote until the summer, and they have in the past and they can change their minds,” Michael Briggs, a spokesman for the Sanders campaign told MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Monday evening.
Given polls that show him faring better than Clinton against Trump, Sanders argues superdelegates should come over to his side.
Democrats have had trouble in predicting the actions of Sanders, who has performed better in the primary than anyone expected.
The Vermont senator is a political independent, and he has swung back and forth between more and less aggressive attitudes toward Clinton throughout the primary process. A Wall Street Journal story on Monday bore the headline, “Sanders camp is split over next step.”
“What he should do is graciously bow out and do what she did eight years ago — but he’s Bernie Sanders so who the hell knows?” said Democratic consultant Tracy Sefl, who served on the Clinton 2008 campaign and is currently a surrogate for the front-runner.
Sanders backers, of course, don’t see it that way.
Robert Reich, a Labor secretary during Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFederal judge changes his mind about stepping down, eliminating vacancy for Biden to fill Joe Biden's gamble with history Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE’s administration who is now a Sanders supporter, outlined reasons why the nomination battle was not yet over in an article on his website on Saturday.
“True, the electoral numbers are daunting, and Bernie faces an uphill task, but a win Tuesday will help enormously. One out of 8 Americans lives in California,” Reich wrote.
But Simmons argued that the outcome in California would only affect the race around the edges.
“A Sanders win in California will make it harder for his supporters to let go of the race and unite behind Secretary Clinton — but that’s clearly where this campaign is headed,” he said. “If Hillary Clinton wins California, there is no argument left to delay Sanders’s withdrawal.”
Jordan Fabian contributed.