The Pulse: California dreamin'

William JordanUS Elections Editor
June 01, 2016, 7:23 AM GMT+0

Hello, I'm Will Jordan and welcome to The Pulse.

Good morning. As the Democratic Primary enters its last big week, here are some things you should know:

  1. Where do things stand now?

    Republicans: Donald Trump is still the presumptive nominee, but last week it became a little more official. Previously uncommitted delegates announced their support for his candidacy, which pushed him over the 1,237 threshold.

    Democrats: Clinton still leads by about 270 pledged delegates, according to the AP, 614 short of the 2,383 needed to “clinch”. Counting the superdelegates who have committed to support her, she needs only 71 more.

  2. Where's the primary action this week?

    Not on the mainland. There is, however, a Democratic Caucus in the US Virgin Islands (7 delegates at stake) on Saturday and a primary in Puerto Rico (60 delegates) on Sunday. Most Americans are unaware, but Puerto Ricans are born US citizens, as are Virgin Islanders (while people from these territories can participate in primaries, they don’t have the right to vote for president in November). There has been no polling, but demographics – majority black in the USVI and majority Latino in Puerto Rico – favor Clinton.

  3. Then why is everybody in California?

    California doesn’t vote until the Tuesday after the weekend contests, but it’s a much bigger prize. Besides its actual scale (475 pledged delegates, half of all those remaining), flower-power nostalgia and a diverse, liberal electorate probably lend it some totemic value, too. That may explain why Sanders has been barnstorming the state, while Clinton cancelled a New Jersey event last-minute to make a final push there. At least one poll also showed a closer-than-expected race, with Clinton ahead by only 2 points. Other surveys found Clinton up by 13 or 18 points.

  4. Does it matter?

    A loss would be embarrassing for Clinton, and would give Sanders a big talking point, but it almost certainly would not threaten her path to the nomination. In fact, she is most likely to be declared the “presumptive nominee” before polls even close in California on June 7th: as a FiveThirtyEight analysis shows, she is likely to pass the 2,383 threshold, with the help of superdelegates, when polls close in New Jersey earlier that night. Sanders argues Clinton won’t really have won because the superdelegates can change their minds, but in 2008 the media declared Obama the “presumptive nominee” when superdelegates pushed him over the line.

  5. How about a Trump update?

    Donald Trump, presumptive Republican nominee, has also had a busy week. He spent Tuesday in a press conference personally admonishing reporters he felt had been unfair to him regarding some donations to veterans groups. He attacked a judge presiding over a suit involving Trump University, a defunct for-profit venture accused of scamming students. Meanwhile national polls of a Trump-Clinton race continue to show a tight race, with Clinton probably ahead by a couple points. Time will tell whether the controversies sink in with voters. Clinton had a bad week too, with the release of a nonpartisan report criticizing her use of a private email account as Secretary of State.

  6. Something else: Is Clinton’s lead actually (secretly) growing?

    Later I will publish a story profiling the “Neithers” – voters who don’t currently support Clinton or Trump. One datapoint that didn’t make the cut was a trend in the “generic presidential vote intention” question YouGov has asked for months. Voters say whether they would vote for “The Democratic Party candidate” or “The Republican Party candidate”. As the identity of those nominees has come into focus, the generic Democrat has gradually moved ahead of the generic Republican.
    In the latest poll, Clinton is only one point ahead of Trump, but the generic Democrat is four points ahead of the Republican. Is it a sign of Clinton’s inherent weakness? Or another sign that there is a group of Democrats out there who probably will vote for the Democrat, but aren’t ready to say out loud who that Democrat will be?

Follow me for constant updates on the race, and other good stuff too.

The Pulse is a weekly newsletter YouGov has launched ahead of the 2016 primaries and general election to give readers a one-stop-shop for the latest polling-related news from the campaign. In addition to YouGov’s own extensive coverage of the election, The Pulse gives you the five things you need to know about the state of the campaign each week (and one you don't need to know but we think is worth knowing anyway!).

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