Clinton’s team had hoped that the hard realities of delegate math would have set in earlier this spring. Instead, the opposite has occurred. The more Sanders has won, the more the focus has been on what’s wrong with Clinton. She has had to keep virtually her entire focus on the primary campaign. At some point, however, as the likely nominee, she will need to turn her attention — and some of the resources of her campaign — to assembling the building blocks for a likely general election campaign. That clock is now ticking louder.
The Clinton team thinks that by the end of the month, the numbers will be incontrovertible, that she will be seen as the presumptive nominee. Senior campaign advisers who have run the numbers argue that by month’s end, Clinton will have accumulated roughly 90 percent of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination. “There won’t be a path for Bernie to succeed,” said one of those advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal information.
That won’t end the competition with Sanders. The calendar looks better for him in May than in late April. He is most likely to win contests that month, giving rise to more questions about Clinton. This is not uncommon in nomination battles. President Obama, in his 2008 campaign against Clinton, lost more contests than he won between early March and the end of the primary season. But his delegate lead barely wavered. By the time we get to California in June, Clinton could be in a position to claim the nomination while still losing the state to Sanders by a wide margin.