Sunday, June 5, 2016

California Matters To Hillary But Not For the Reason You Think

For the last two weeks the Sanders campaign has been insisting that the California primary is make or break for them. Sorry, guys, not true. Regardless of what happens in the Golden State, Hillary Clinton is winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders whole strategy comes down to eking out a narrow win in California and then convincing most (err, all) of the Super Delegates to switch over to him. Fat chance that happening. There's no way in hell that the Super Delegates are going to give the middle finger to millions of voters, many of whom are Hispanic, African American and women. Good luck starting a revolution, much less winning a general election, without those voters, Bernie.

Frankly I just don't get this. Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by approximately three million votes and, depending on the results from Puerto Rico, almost 300 pledged delegates. And she stands an excellent chance of increasing both those margins this Tuesday when six states go to the polls. By comparison, Clinton trailed Barack Obama in 2008 by 62 pledged delegates AND, thanks to two states going out of turn, actually received more votes. Yet, when all the shouting was over, she did the right thing and conceded. Yes, losing California would be a blow, but a blow to her pride only. Remember, Barack Obama lost the state in '08 primary, yet carried it by 24 points in the general.

But there is one reason why California matters to Hillary and it could prove to be crucial to her chances of defeating Donald Trump in November. The Latino vote turnout. Put succinctly, if she doesn't get the majority of the Latino vote - and by majority I'm not talking 51-49 - that would be an ominous sign for her in the fall.

It is quite clear from all the exit polling this primary season that Clinton will be able to count on a vast majority of the African American vote, but Latinos are not a monolithic voting bloc. While a majority of them are liberal when it comes to economic issues, they tend to be more conservative on social issues. Most of that is due to their upbringing and the strong ties many of them have to their faith. The Catholic Church has a lot of influence throughout Latin America and most of the population there is pro-life. Even Catholics in the United States tend to split down the middle politically. The fact that George Bush was able to get 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in '04 proves that this group is not a slam dunk for Hillary and Dems in 2016.

The fact of the matter is that Democrats have been the beneficiaries of two consecutive dreadful GOP presidential nominees who basically gift-wrapped the Latino vote for them. Remember Mitt Romney's self deportation stance in 2012? That was the definition of political malpractice. Looking at 2016, it's quite probable that Trump will follow in Romney's footsteps. Indeed his "Mexicans are rapists and drug smugglers" comment at his press conference last year may well have sunk his chances. But if I were the DNC, I wouldn't go counting those chickens before they're hatched just yet.

Already, Trump and his surrogates are attempting to reframe this issue to make it look like he is the victim. When Trump was called on the carpet for his racist accusation that Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over a lawsuit regarding his defunct university, had a conflict of interest because he's a Mexican - he was actually born in Indiana, by the way - they struck back by calling Curiel an activist judge. It's called the art of deflection and if enough Latinos buy into it, Hillary could be toast.

This needs to be stated in the strongest of terms. There is no doubt Donald Trump will look to run up the score with white males. It's the method to his madness. What Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party cannot afford to let happen is for him to make any inroads with their core constituencies.

California should act as a barometer of sorts. If Hillary wins the lion's share of the Latino vote, she should be ok; if she doesn't, hold onto your hats, kids; this could be a long summer, and perhaps even a longer fall.

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