With less than two weeks to go before residents in the nation's largest and most diverse state cast their ballots, it appears as if all is not lost for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Golden State's primary. A recent poll shows front-runner Hillary Clinton has lost her lead in California and is now in a virtual dead heat with the senator.
Weeks of campaigning across the state have reportedly helped Sanders close the once double-digit gap between him and the former secretary of state. A poll released late Wednesday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California shows Sanders now trailing just two percentage points behind Clinton, 44 to 46, which falls well within the poll's margin of error.
Clinton seemed unconcerned about the poll, telling reporters she was well ahead of Sanders in delegates and votes overall during a stop in Silicon Valley's San Jose. "We are already insurmountably ahead not only in the popular vote, leading by 3 million, but also in the pledged delegates," the New York Post reported her as saying. "This will be wrapped up on June 7." Clinton currently leads Sanders with 1,769 pledged delegates to his 1,497. With a hefty lead of 540 superdelegates, Clinton's overall delegate count reaches 2,309 to Sanders' 1,539.
Sanders has been busy pounding the pavement up and down the Golden State in the weeks leading up to California's primary and his campaign says the PPI poll is proof the candidate's efforts are working. "Bernie has been campaigning hard out here getting his message out, and we're seeing that it's working," Sanders' California pollster Ben Tulchin told the San Jose Mercury News. The Vermont senator has drawn tens of thousands of people to a total of 14 rallies held across the state and has spent $1.5 million on ads targeting Californian voters in the run-up to the primary.
But it's unclear if Clinton will truly lose California's primary when residents vote on June 7. An Eyewitness News - Survey USA poll released just a few days before the PPI poll, showed Clinton holding an 18 point lead over Sanders in the Golden State with 57 percent of poll respondents favoring her compared to 39 percent planning to vote for Sanders. Moreover, the PPI poll surveyed both registered Democrats and independents. (That's independent not Independent.) California's semi-closed primary allows the participation of voters registered with "no party preference" such as independents barring they request a ballot for the party primary of their choice. Clinton's lead expanded to 8 percentage points in the PPI poll when only registered Democrats were counted.
Although a loss in California could prove damaging to Clinton's campaign as it moves into a general election race against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, it's unlikely to hurt Clinton's chances of becoming the official nominee of the Democratic Party. The former secretary of state needs just 74 delegates to secure the minimum number needed to win her party's nomination and is expected to obtain them on June 7 when polls close in New Jersey hours before Californians have finished voting.