“With 0 percent of precincts reporting, and, shoot, two days to go before the polls close? We’re just gonna go head and call California for Hillary Clinton.” If they could, I’m sure the national news networks who we entrust (willingly or not) to call our political races for us would happily declare the Golden State as going Democratic today, or last week, or last year. California has gone blue in the last six elections, and with morphing demographics, it’s unlikely to change course anytime soon.
California has not always been a Democratic stronghold. In the 12 presidential contests between World War II and Bill Clinton’s first run in 1992, California only voted for the Democratic candidate twice, Harry Truman in 1948 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (both of which were in the wake of a presidential deaths). California gave us both the most famous and infamous modern Republican Presidents, respectively, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
On a presidential level, the 2016 numbers look less like a race and more like a trouncing. To scan FiveThirtyEight’s polling average of the state at the time of writing— where they give Republican Donald Trump a .1 percent chance of winning — Clinton’s weakest lead is 14 points. Her strongest? Forty-four points.
Just how Democratic is California? For the first time this year, thanks to a 2010 Amendment to the California Constitution, the two candidates running for Senate are both Democrats. California’s “Top Two” primary system has all primary candidates run in an open primary (sometimes called a “blanket primary”), and the top two candidates, regardless of party, face off in the general election in November. This year, State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, grabbed the top two slots with 39.9 and 18.9 percent of the vote, respectively. The highest polling Republican, Duf Sundheim, only got 7.8 percent of the vote.
California’s left-lean can be seen in other down-ballot races, perhaps most smirkingly in Proposition 64, which will legalize recreational use of marijuana, following similar moves by Colorado and Washington State.
The Golden State finds itself in a strange place in the Electoral College; as the most populous state in the union, it also has the largest share of electoral votes — 55! — but that also means that its citizens’ individual votes count less per person than almost any other state (only New York and Florida have weaker individual-vote-per-Electoral-College-Vote numbers). Even weirder, because it’s in the Pacific Time Zone, and because its vote is more or less a foregone conclusion, it’s possible that the presidential race could be called before the polls close in California.
Whatever happens on Tuesday, short of a zombie apocalypse, you can expect to see California and its 55 Electoral Votes supporting Hillary Clinton for President.