There’s up­set in the air in Cal­i­for­nia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRU­DEN

LOS AN­GE­LES he acrid odor of Demo­cratic panic, as real as the aroma of burnt flesh and cordite on a bat­tle­field, hangs over Cal­i­for­nia in a dark cloud of con­fu­sion and un­cer­tainty. “This is how it smelled in ’64,” says a stunned Demo­cratic ob­server in Sacra­mento, “with [Barry] Gold­wa­ter charg­ing and [Nel­son] Rock­e­feller on the run.”

This time Hil­lary Clin­ton has the Rock­e­feller role, with Bernie San­ders in pas­sion­ate pur­suit as the stand-in Barry Gold­wa­ter. The point is that sud­denly the Demo­cratic world is about to be turned up­side down, and ev­ery­one is plun­der­ing prece­dents to make sense of it. Only weeks ago Hil­lary was so far ahead — lead­ing by up to 60 points in some pub­lic-opin­ion polls — that the no­tion than Bernie could catch her was mere fan­tasy.

A new Wall Street Jour­nal-NBC News poll, con­ducted by Marist, demon­strates the im­pos­si­ble, on the cru­cial weekend be­fore the Tuesday vote, that the race is sta­tis­ti­cally tied, with Hil­lary lead­ing by only 2 points, 49 per­cent to 47 per­cent among most likely vot­ers. From so far be­hind that he might as well have been cam­paign­ing in New Zealand, the 74-year-old So­cial­ist Santa Claus from the king­dom of free stuff has pulled even and surges for the fin­ish with the mo­men­tum.

Hil­lary is still the way to bet, if bet a man must. She has the com­mit­ted

Tdel­e­gates, she has the su­per-del­e­gates and she has the party ma­chin­ery pulling out the stops. What she doesn’t have is the fire and pas­sion of the mo­men­tum head­ing into the all-im­por­tant fi­nal weekend of the cam­paign. Mo­men­tum — “the big ’Mo,” Ge­orge Bush the El­der called it — nearly al­ways awards the vic­tory to the can­di­date who has it at the fin­ish.

Win­ning Cal­i­for­nia, im­por­tant as it is, is not nec­es­sar­ily de­ci­sive in Novem­ber. Barack Obama lost Cal­i­for­nia to Hil­lary eight years ago and won the nom­i­na­tion, and the elec­tion. But Hil­lary can­not af­ford to lose on Tuesday. Even win­ning by squeez­ing out a close vic­tory would sharply dis­ap­point. She needs fewer than 50 del­e­gates to seal a suc­cess, and 600 del­e­gates will be in play on Tuesday. A loss here would be, if not cat­a­strophic, at least dis­as­trous.

Mo­men­tum dis­penses its own re­wards. Don­ald Trump, who never lets an oc­ca­sion go by with­out butting in and if there’s no oc­ca­sion he will make one, has been mock­ing Hil­lary’s in­abil­ity to close with strength. This week, as if to make the Don­ald’s point, the Clin­tons, Bubba and wife, de­serted the cam­paign in four other states — New Jer­sey (51 del­e­gates), South Dakota (29), Mon­tana (27) and New Mex­ico (24) — to put all their re­sources here. They’ve cleared out ev­ery­thing for 30 events be­tween now and Tuesday. “[Bernie] has been out there for three weeks solid,” says Bubba, the mas­ter play­ing de­fense, “and we’ve been cam­paign­ing in all the other states. Cal­i­for­nia has been good to us, to Hil­lary par­tic­u­larly. Eight years ago she did very well. I think it’s re­ally a ques­tion of turnout.”

It’s the surge of the newly reg­is­tered, un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers who have the Clin­tons on edge. Mr. San­ders has done very well with the in­de­pen­dents, and a big part of his cam­paign has been a suc­cess­ful ap­peal to vot­ers who have rarely voted in pri­maries.

This has been a week for gal­lantry in the ranks of a party that puts small value on such old-fash­ioned no­tions, with three im­por­tant men coming to the aid of the lady in dis­tress. Pres­i­dent Obama gave her the en­dorse­ment that looked for a long time he was sav­ing for some­one else. This week Jerry Brown, the gover­nor who fi­nally out­ran a rep­u­ta­tion as Gover­nor Moon­beam, en­dorsed her, but it sounded only like an en­dorse­ment of the last man (or woman) stand­ing who could block Don­ald Trump’s road to Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. And of course Bubba, al­ways Bubba, try­ing to make good his end of the pact the two of them made at Yale in a pre­vi­ous cen­tury: “You help me get to the White House, and then I’ll help you fol­low me.”

The harsh re­al­ity, that she needs a barn-burn­ing fin­ish to save her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, il­lus­trates the pinch Hil­lary finds her­self in, and sug­gests that she will strug­gle might­ily against Don­ald Trump. The Don­ald’s party ri­vals are quickly fall­ing into line. Paul Ryan tipped his hat to the in­evitable Thurs­day.

If Bernie de­feats her on Tuesday, all bets on the Philadel­phia con­ven­tion next month are off. The su­per-del­e­gates could stam­pede to some­body, per­haps Bernie but more likely Joe Bi­den, and de­liver what ev­ery­body has been han­ker­ing for, an open con­ven­tion. Ain’t we got fun? Wes­ley Pru­den is editor in chief emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Bernard San­ders

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