Bernie Sanders Could Win California & Still Lose

The Democratic primaries are finally coming to a close, and the most populous state in the nation finally gets its say. The nearly 39 million people in California have had to patiently wait — perhaps grinding their teeth — as the primary voting has moved on without them. But for once, it's not completely over as voters head to the poll Tuesday. There are technically still two candidates in the Democratic race: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She may still have a huge delegate lead, but every voter wants to have a say. So will Bernie Sanders win California?

The latest polling has Clinton and Sanders nearly neck and neck. She's ahead, 49 percentage points to his 47 — far closer than we saw even a week ago, though within the poll's margin of error. The reliability is, of course a question. Polls have bounced back and forth from a 2-point spread like this one to others as high 13 and 18 points. Polls, of course, are not always correct. In Michigan this year we saw one of the biggest polling upsets ever — Sanders polled way behind, about 21 points behind, and then went on to win the contest. So what should we expect as the results come in Tuesday night?

Nate Silver and the folks at FiveThirtyEight are projecting Clinton will win, with a 92 percent likelihood. They use a weighted average of the polls taking into consideration factors like the past performance of the poll, its methodology, and the sample size. Silver and his team tend to be right, but, as Michigan showed, never say never.

In the end it may come down to turning out the vote. The polls show Clinton with a narrow lead among whites and Latinos who are registered Democrats but a 2-1 margin over Sanders with black Democratic voters. Sanders, on the other hand, does better with "no party preference" voters. Clinton leads among those who have already voted by a 9-percent margin.

In the end, though, a Sanders win is unlikely to alter the outcome of the campaign. Even if he wins by a small margin in California — a blowout is highly unlikely — he would still come in second in the pledged delegate race. Sanders may very will win several other states Tuesday, like Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. But Clinton will almost surely win New Jersey. That would protect her lead.

Still, Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton spent the last week stumping in California — just to be safe. It is a state that Clinton won in 2008; she took home nearly 52 percent of the vote, while Obama had just 43 percent. At that time, her win was not enough to overcome Obama's delegate lead. She's hoping to pile a California win on top of her delegate lead. What will ultimately happen Tuesday, though, depends solely on the voters.