California, the marquee prize of the 14-state voting bonanza of Super Tuesday, has sided with Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to projections from The Associated Press.
Sanders was leading in early returns Tuesday night, but the question remains if his competitors will also lay claim to some portion of the state’s trove of 415 delegates.
The projection came immediately as the polls closed at 8 p.m., even as many voters remained in line, with widespread complaints of long lags in polling places. The Sanders campaign had filed a complaint asking for centers to remain open for additional hours to accommodate the delays.
The full picture of California’s choice will not come into view for days, if not weeks, as the state’s complex delegate math and expansive voting procedures make for an arduous counting process.
The Vermont senator, addressing a home state crowd about an hour before the California polls closed, pinned his hopes for the night in part on a strong showing in the Golden State.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that later in the evening, we can win the largest state in this country, the state of California,” Sanders said.
Like elsewhere in the country, the presidential race in California has been volatile, with at least four contenders leading polls in the state at different points over the last seven months. Recent polling showed Sanders pulling away, pointing to a romp that had the potential to box out his competitors from scoring significant delegates.
For Sanders, winning in California carries extra symbolic heft. He lost the state’s 2016 primary to Hillary Clinton by seven points, one day after the Associated Press had reported that Clinton had secured enough delegate support to clinch the nomination.
This time, with California’s primary moved from June to March and a committed bastion of supporters lending Sanders an organizing head-start, the Golden State factored significantly into his campaign blueprint. His strategists lumped California into the “first five” of crucial states _ along with traditional early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina _ and built an extensive field operation with 105 paid staffers.
Sanders himself made frequent visits to the state, hosting rallies not just in the population hubs of Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but often overlooked cities in the Central Valley.
His success hinged on building on his core support of young and very liberal voters with a concerted outreach to the state’s large Latino population. Sanders won 55% of that consequential bloc, according to CNN exit polls.
“He sees us as human beings,” said Mildred Dimas, a 30 year-old Boyle Heights resident and daughter of Mexican immigrants. “He empathizes with our immigrant story.”
But Joe Biden was boosted by a strong showing with older voters, moderates and blacks, according to exit polls.
“The momentum has changed in his favor,” said Jose Marroquin, a 67-year-old retiree from Los Angeles who had decided he was supporting Biden as soon as he entered the race. “I am actually thinking that the tide has turned.”
Driven by the state’s yearning for political relevance, California officials moved the state’s primary to early March, up from June of the previous two elections, in hopes the results would shape the contours of the presidential race.
While the state still got far less attention than the candidates lavished on Iowa and New Hampshire, Californians did get more opportunities to glimpse the candidates at rallies and other in-person events. The race was even more heated on the airwaves, with more than $120 million worth of television advertising blanketing the state since early 2019. More than half of that came from one candidate, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who blitzed the state with advertising immediately upon entering the race last November.
Democratic political figures were quick to declare the early primary a success.
“It absolutely had the desired impact. … Candidates set up significant operations across the state during the primary, poured resources into communicating with Democratic voters, and courted Democrats by focusing on important California issues,” said Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party.
Paul Mitchell, a political data specialist, said the recent swell of support for Biden among moderate party figures, including his former rivals _ ex-South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas _ was driven by the high stakes and a desire to deny Sanders a glide path to the nomination.
“The amazing events of last 24 hours wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t have one-fifth of all the delegates you need to win the nomination being served up on Super Tuesday,” Mitchell said. “These events are happening because California moved its primary ahead.”
With the politicking drawing to a close, the focus now turns to counting _ a notoriously protracted process in California, thanks to the popularity of mail-in ballots, which count so long as they’re postmarked by election day, and the availability of same-day registration, which leads to a large number of provisional ballots.
There are effectively 54 primaries going on in California; one based on the statewide vote total, which will divvy up 144 delegates, and 53 races in individual congressional districts, which together account for 271. In each contest, a candidate must get at least 15% of the vote to qualify for delegates.
“You’ll see a lot of movement in those delegate numbers over the course of the next few weeks once all the votes come in,” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the California Democratic Party. “Our perspective is we’d rather have an accurate count than a fast count.”
Some savvy voters took the state’s prolonged tallying procedures into account when choosing how to vote. Lisa Marie Desai, a 37 year-old stenographer from Culver City, opted to drop off her mail-in ballot at her local voting center to ensure that her vote for Warren is counted sooner rather than later.
“I could’ve put my thing in the mail today and it would’ve been postmarked,” Desai said. “But I wanted to be a part of the data for today. I wanted to be part of the election day results.”
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