If Donald Trump wins Tuesday’s Indiana primary, he’ll have a much surer path to clinching the Republican nomination on June 7, when California will be the largest delegate prize.
If Hillary Clinton wins the contest, she’ll have an even more compelling case that it’s time for the party to unify.
Trump has already called himself the “presumptive nominee,” and Clinton has already turned some of her stump-speech focus to the general election. As much as their challengers have vowed to take their races to the convention, they will have to also weigh the costs of waging a full-scale fight a month from now in California.
If Sanders and Cruz lose, “I think there will be some pressure for them to step aside for the good of the party and to unite the supporters,” said Lynn Vavreck, professor of political science and communications studies at UCLA.
She added, “The media and travel costs in California are definitely significant relative to other states, so campaigns have to believe they have the money or can raise the money to wage a campaign here. Winning primaries leads to raising money — so if they don’t win or have a string of losses, the money is likely to start to trickle in and dry up, which makes the prospects of a California campaign daunting.”
TV ad buying strategies are based on “points,” and the L.A. market costs about $1,200 per point, according to Bill Carrick, the Los Angeles-based Democratic political consultant. The minimum for serious advertising exposure is about 1,000 points — or $1.2 million just for the L.A. market, he noted.
“I also think the cost of doing everything here is more because we have so many people,” he said. For example, the GOP contest in California is winner-take-all per congressional district, meaning that “you have to play everywhere to be competitive.”
The presumption since March has been that California, at the end of the primary calendar, will at last be a factor in the GOP nomination contest and perhaps even the Democratic race. But Trump’s sweep of the primaries last week, and Clinton’s win of four out of five of those states, raise the prospect that the state may be more of a coda to the primary campaign season than a fiercely competitive climax.
Trump is just under 1,000 delegates and needs 1,237 to clinch the nomination, according to the New York Times. Clinton is at 2,183 delegates (1,663 pledged and 520 super delegates), and needs 2,383 to win.
Trump leads in Indiana over Cruz by double digits, while Clinton holds a smaller lead over Sanders in the state, according to Real Clear Politics.
Sanders’ fundraising was down significantly in April, but he has shown strong resilience in amassing millions even after losses. “He is going to have money and he is going to have a pretty vigorous operation here,” Carrick said.
Cruz’s campaign has gotten so bitter against Trump, particularly in Tuesday’s skirmish over Trump’s tabloid-fueled claim that Cruz’s father hung out with Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s hard to imagine Cruz just folding, even if some of his backers in L.A. think the race is pretty much over. He and John Kasich also can rely on SuperPAC support. “It may be that they go on, but it is just going to get more difficult,” Carrick said.
The candidates have been gradually shifting their focus out west. Trump, Cruz and Kasich spoke at the GOP convention over the weekend, and Hillary Clinton is in Los Angeles on Thursday to campaign at East Los Angeles College. She also is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in downtown L.A. hosted by Jose Huizar. Her campaign also has scheduled a series of fundraisers over the next few weeks with surrogates, including a reception with former president Bill Clinton on Friday at the home of Laura and Sanford Michelman and an event on May 13 at the home of Meredith Baxter and Nancy Locke.
Clinton will be back in Los Angeles on May 23 for more events, including a $2,700-per-person fundraiser at the home of Bryan Lourd and Bruce Bozzi that is also co-hosted by Anna Wintour.