Six states casting presidential primary ballots

Laurie Kellman
Associated Press

Washington — Hillary Clinton is ready to savor this moment, sailing into the last big round of primaries as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Bernie Sanders isn’t quite ready to go there, still hoping for a late, improbable course correction in the political passageways of 2016.

Donald Trump is eager to take another victory lap after a bumpy turn as the presumptive GOP nominee.

With the two parties’ presumptive nominees set, voters in six states belatedly get to add their voices to the presidential race on Tuesday. King among them: California and its massive haul of 175 Republican and 475 Democratic delegates.

Clinton crossed the magic delegate threshold on the eve of Tuesday’s coast-to-coast vote, pointing her toward a place in history as the first woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major presidential party.

The basics

Political mathletes get to stand down after Tuesday’s contests and the final Democratic primary on June 14 in the District of Columbia.

Clinton and Sanders are poised to split the 694 Democratic delegates up for grabs in New Jersey, California, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. The District of Columbia, which offers 20 delegates, is the last to vote on June 14.

Both tried to preserve a veneer of suspense headed into the latest round of voting: Clinton said she was on the brink of a “historic, unprecedented moment” but there was still work to do in six states voting Tuesday.

Sanders made no mention of Clinton’s victory as his spokesman vowed that the campaign would work to convince superdelegates backing Clinton to change their minds and support the Vermont senator.

On the Republican side? That’s all, folks.

The ferocious 17-way battle for the GOP nomination ends quietly Tuesday with the contest’s final votes. Republicans vote in five states (there’s no GOP contest in North Dakota).

Technically, it’s still not over on either side. Neither Clinton nor Trump will be their parties’ official nominees until the formalities of the delegate votes at the parties’ national conventions.

Why it matters for Clinton

The one-two punch of clinching the nomination and wrapping up the last big round of primaries gives Clinton an opportunity to stand before the nation as a woman in full — ready to embrace the historic nature of her candidacy and to demonstrate her determination to stand fast against the turbulent forces that have propelled Trump’s candidacy through the primaries.

The math: Clinton enters Tuesday’s voting right at the magic number of 2,383 delegates. That includes 1,812 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses, and the support of 571 superdelegates.

Adding a nice bit of political theater to the day, Tuesday is the anniversary of Clinton’s 2008 speech in which she conceded the primary to then-Sen. Barack Obama — and declared that her campaign had put “18 million cracks” in “that highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

Becoming the presumptive nominee opens the gates to overt help from Obama: The White House said Monday that he’s expected to endorse his former secretary of state in coming days and to join her soon at a joint appearance.

Why it matters for Trump

The contests Tuesday give the billionaire mogul a high-profile way to override several difficult days in which members of his own party have nearly unanimously ordered him to cease his criticism of an American judge based on the jurist’s ethnicity.

Many had offered lukewarm endorsements heavily conditioned on the idea that Trump pivots from his divisive rhetoric of the primaries and starts unifying the party he now leads. But Trump instead continued commenting about the races and ethnic backgrounds of people attending his rallies and the heritage of a judge overseeing a federal lawsuit against Trump University.

The result was the rare spectacle of senior Republicans publicly scolding their own likely presidential nominee, and warning him to drop the subject of U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnic background.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said: “Yeah, he’s going to have to adapt. This is not working for him. They were inappropriate comments.”

The contests give Trump an opening to manage the unpleasantness on a big scale — and again point out that he’s the one who has received millions of votes and earned the 1,237 delegates required to win GOP presidential nomination. He is expected to speak from his golf club in Westchester County, New York.

What about Bernie?

Sanders kept quiet after Clinton hit her delegate count late Monday.

He left it to spokesman Michael Briggs to warn against a “rush to judgment” and point out that Clinton’s status as presumptive nominee is dependent on superdelegates who could still change their minds.

Briggs said the campaign’s job is to convince superdelegates that Sanders is “by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”

The Vermont senator also was mum on Obama’s call to him a day earlier. Sanders planned to travel to Vermont on Wednesday, and beyond that declined to describe his plans.

The money chase

With their primary contests behind them, the candidates can more fully turn their attention to the business of financing their general election operations.

Clinton has a significant head start, having spent months building supporter lists during the primary and partnering with Democratic leaders since November to build up general election cash resources. Trump is significantly behind.

Because Trump largely funded his primary bid by loaning millions of dollars to his campaign, he is just now getting a fundraising operation off the ground. Through a deal with the Republican National Committee, Trump will spend much of June raising money for himself and other Republicans. He has three fundraisers scheduled June 16-18 in Texas and will attend a fundraising dinner June 21 in his native New York City, followed by a breakfast the next day.

In other election news….

Congressional elections also are rumbling through primaries, and Tuesday could mean an unpleasant first on the Republican side.

Not one House Republican incumbent has been ousted this year in primaries. But that record won’t survive Tuesday’s votes. Redrawn district lines pit GOP Reps. Renee Ellmers and George Holding against each other for the nomination in one North Carolina district — and only one will win.

Across the country, California is poised — barring a surprise — to send two Democratic women running for Senate to the November ballot: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.

If the trends hold, it would be the first time since the start of direct Senate elections a century ago that a Republican has not appeared on a California general election ballot for U.S. Senate, says Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney. Republicans in the state account for only 27 percent of registered voters.