If Sanders wins the biggest and most delegate-rich primary, all bets are off.
LOS ANGELES — Barring a set of unprecedented upsets on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is expected to be declared the presumptive Democratic nominee. And when the television networks make that call as soon as New Jersey polls close on June 7, it will leave Bernie Sanders with a hard choice: whether to directly acknowledge it or intensify his fight to the July convention in Philadelphia.
The Vermont senator has shown few signs of being ready to concede. And if he wins California, he won’t.
The outcome there will determine the course he takes in the seven-week runup to the convention, top Sanders aides and high-profile supporters say, either driving his decision to battle on for the nomination or to begin focusing on the party policy and platform changes he wants to make.
A win in California, his top advisers believe, will enable Sanders to make a much more aggressive pitch to superdelegates and Democrats around the country in the coming weeks. He will be able to point to victories over Clinton in more than 20 states — capped by the biggest, bluest and most diverse in the nation. The symbolic value of winning California, they think, would underscore his point that the future of the party is on his side and rattle superdelegate confidence in her candidacy.
A loss, however, would dismantle that argument. The Sanders camp believes a defeat there would take the wind out of his sails, in no small part because of the negative media narrative that would result after having spent so much time in the state.