What Happens If Bernie Sanders Wins California? Things Could Get Messy Even Though The State Doesn't Decide The Nomination

The Associated Press has called the race for Hillary Clinton — but the voting is not over. Tuesday six states will head to the polls including California, the country's most populous, home of the 475-delegate jackpot. Polls show Clinton ahead, but only slightly. Her two percentage point lead could also be eaten into, now that some of her supporters see the race as wrapped up. Combine that with the millions of newly registered young and independent voters and Sanders could have a real chance. So what exactly will happen if Bernie Sanders wins California?

For starters, Sanders won't become the Democratic nominee. Clinton already has that in the bag. That's what the AP analysis shows, that she already has a majority of the pledged delegates and superdelegates to win the nomination. Regardless of who wins California, she will surely take home many more delegates on Tuesday. She only needs about 30 percent of the vote in the remaining states to keep a majority of the pledged delegates — and if she does that, superdelegates will have a hard time explaining their choice to take away the nomination from the first woman ever to win the race, no matter the margin.

The superdelegates are not going to change their votes for this and many more reasons. Many of them have known and worked with Clinton for years. Sanders has been antagonistic to the DNC and the whole process. As Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post, even Sanders' lone supporter in the U.S. Senate, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, said Sanders should give up the fight against Clinton once she wins the pledged delegate race. Then the anti-superdelegate superdelegate Elizabeth Warren said, "I don't believe superdelegates ought to sway the election." That would make a Warren vote for Sanders highly unlikely too. And of the 714 superdelegates, only 143 are up for grabs or already with Sanders.

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That's not to say, though, that it can't get messy if Sanders wins. Sanders could take the fight for superdelegates to the convention, just as he has been saying. Bill Scher for Politico explained what has happened in past conventions where the winner was contested, as Sanders has claimed it will be. The convention in 1984 is the closest comparison we have to today. Gary Hart was behind in the pledged delegate count but Walter Mondale's support among superdelegates was huge. Hart also polled better against Reagan. Both Hart and third-place finisher Jesse Jackson argued for changes to the party platform on the floor, distracting Mondale from the general election.

Whether that will happen remains a mystery. When asked about the possibility of Clinton winning the race for pledged delegates, Sanders refused to answer. "You’re asking me to speculate. Let me just talk to you after the primary here in California," Sanders said when asked about whether he would endorse her before the convention. "Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation."

It will fall on Sanders to decide whether to fight on or not. Debate is good for the Democratic process, and yet presenting a united front against Trump is the best thing for the party — and the country — come November.