Finally.

Photographer: Julio Cortez/AP Photo

Why Clinton's California Victory Matters

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Hillary Clinton has been the almost-certain Democratic presidential nominee for weeks. But she needed her victory in California anyway to give her a big political boost in forging party unity.

That, and an easy win in New Jersey, added to the majority of delegates she wrapped up by Monday. Of greater significance, it intensifies pressure on Senator Bernie Sanders to bow to reality and coax his passionate supporters to rally around the campaign to defeat Donald Trump.

The Democrats' big guns, starting with President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, will start right away trying to persuade Sanders to end the nomination fight. Sanders won Montana and the North Dakota caucus but his hopes of winning the majority of Tuesday's contests failed as Clinton prevailed in New Mexico and South Dakota.

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Leading Democrats hope the Vermont socialist's loss in California, where he’d looked for a psychological boost, makes it more likely that he'll settle for some progressive planks in the party platform and changes in delegate-selection rules. They will flatter him by arguing that with his surprisingly strong showing and devoted flock of spirited followers, he can help Democratic candidates in the fall and could have leverage in the Senate during a Clinton presidency.

This won't be an easy sale. Sanders remains bitter about some of the things the Clinton camp has said about him and may need a little time to assess the best course, starting with the long plane ride from California to Vermont on Wednesday.

Sanders sounded confrontational as recently as Saturday, when he talked about a contested convention, and even late Tuesday night, despite the decisive California result, he vowed to keep fighting. At Sanders’s request, he will meet with Obama at the White House on Thursday, perhaps paving the way for an accord. Obama is likely to endorse Clinton this week, the New York Times reported.

Another important figure in the diplomacy between the Clinton and Sanders camps will be Warren, the Massachusetts senator who is a leader in the anti-Wall Street Democratic left. She has made some of the most effective criticisms of Trump in recent weeks and, even more than Obama, has credibility with many Sanders supporters.

The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, and his likely successor, Chuck Schumer, will weigh in too, stressing to Sanders that he will have more clout in the Senate if he helps the party this fall. Vice President Joe Biden, popular with almost all Democrats, will be a force too.

In negotiations, the Clinton camp is likely to give Sanders most of what he wants in rules changes affecting delegates and primaries for 2020. The Vermont lawmaker wants to reduce the role of superdelegates, who are party officials and office holders not bound to any candidate, and allow independents to vote in primaries.

The platform, though largely symbolic, may be a tougher slog. There are areas of general agreement like paid family leave, campaign finance reform, regulation of Wall Street, the minimum wage and tuition subsidies at public universities.

There could be fights, though, if the Sanders camp pushes hard on foreign policy matters or some more controversial domestic issues like a ban on fracking.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net