The media may have kneecapped Hillary Clinton by declaring her the presumptive nominee

I saw a series of puzzling news flash items coming over the transom last night, all of which carried one version or another of the theme that Hillary Clinton had “secured the Democratic nomination” by finally getting enough delegates locked up to seal the deal. At first I thought the Associated Press had mistakenly released a story they’d pre-written for tonight’s news after the polls close in five states today, but that wasn’t the case. They were including a survey of the superdelegates who were willing to go on record as “committing” to support Clinton. This, of course, is a meaningless figure because those party officials and well placed insiders can change their minds any time they feel like it with the dawn of a fresh news cycle.

Hillary Clinton has commitments from the number of delegates needed to become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president, and will be first woman to top the ticket of a major U.S. political party. An Associated Press count of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and a survey of party insiders known as superdelegates shows Clinton with the overall support of the required 2,383 delegates. Now the presumptive nominee, she will formally accept her party’s nomination in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Nearly every other major news outlet picked up the story and ran with it. When you read over the wording, it’s a stark declaration. This thing is over. There aren’t any ambiguous clauses in there allowing for possible changes or upsets. It’s done. She “will formally accept” the nomination in Philadelphia.

To be fair, that’s almost certainly true if we’re only looking at the raw math. Bernie can’t possibly catch her tonight in the five states that are voting unless essentially no Hillary voters show up. But by delivering this premature proclamation, the AP may have just done a serious disservice to Clinton’s campaign. As the LA Times speculates, turnout will still be an issue – particularly down ballot – and why bother spending your Tuesday standing in line to vote if the race is already over?

Voting data specialist Paul Mitchell said he expected people to avoid the polls in California on Tuesday because of the Associated Press’ Monday announcement that Hillary Clinton had secured enough support to become the presumptive nominee .

That could play a significant role in down-ticket races, including whether two Democrats get the majority of votes in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Political observers had largely predicted that Democrats’ contested presidential race would spur more Democrats to vote Tuesday, while the essentially settled Republican race would keep Republicans at home, opening the door for Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez to move on to November’s general election.

The LA Times’ coverage is focusing more on the primary battle for Boxer’s senate seat and possible effects of a low turnout day, and that’s a valid question. There could be any number of races up and down in the line in all these states which produce unexpected results if the numbers are seriously low. But let’s not overlook the effect on the Democrats’ presidential primary here either.

Bernie may not be able to win the nomination outright, but the last thing Clinton needs is to limp over the finish line with a string of losses in the final states, particularly the huge contest in California. And the thinner her margin of victory in the pledged delegate count, the fewer superdelegates it would take to swing things at the convention if they decide to change sides after some startling FBI news. The last polls in California showed the Democrats in a neck and neck, inside the margin of error battle. Bernie is still out there whipping his supporters into a frenzy over the rigged primary and pushing for every last vote. If Hillary’s supporters are complacent with the AP news that their gal has already won the race, it wouldn’t take too many of them staying home to tip it in Bernie’s favor.

It’s a season of the unexpected in primary politics and that trend looks like it’s going to continue right down to the wire. Congratulations, political fans. You have indeed lived to see interesting times.