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Democrat race heads to California

Published:Monday | May 23, 2016 | 12:05 AM
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton


The tough Democratic presidential campaign comes to California, the nation's largest state, on June 7, even as Hillary Clinton appears to have a near-lock on the nomination.

By some estimates, Hispanics could make up as many as two in 10 voters in California. The contest comes on the same day as those in New Jersey and several other states, in what amounts to the finale of the 2016 primary season.

A come-from-behind win for Bernie Sanders in California - a Clinton stronghold and home to one in eight people in the United States - would end the former first lady's campaign with a thud, allowing Sanders to refresh his argument that he's the party's best chance to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November. It would still, though, almost certainly leave him short of the delegates needed to catch up to her. The New Jersey results alone may put her over the top June 7. The California contest has taken on new urgency after Clinton's shaky performance this month.

Clinton ran up a commanding two-to-one edge with Hispanics when she carried California over Barack Obama in the state's 2008 presidential primary. But an independent Field Poll last month revealed a much closer contest and a familiar divide in the electorate: Clinton had a seven-point edge with Hispanics overall, while Sanders was the choice by a nearly three-to-one margin for Latinos under age 40.

Meanwhile, voter registration among young Hispanics, those age 18 to 29, has been climbing, and they lean to Sanders.

Sanders "has a real potential to win Latinos" in California, predicted Sanders campaign pollster Ben Tulchin. "He needs an influx of young Latinos and he's getting it, it's happening." But younger voters are notoriously fickle, especially among Hispanics.

"The most likely Latino voter is still an older voter in California," said Jaime Regalado, former executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs. "And those voters, almost to a person, will stay with Clinton."