Hillary Clinton is widely expected to clinch the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, when voters in six states, including New Jersey and California, go the polls.
But could it happen even sooner?
It may be far-fetched, but two lesser-watched contests this weekend, in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could put Clinton over the top – if she wins very lopsided victories over Bernie Sanders and picks up the remaining superdelegates from the two territories along the way.
Clinton needs 70 more delegates to reach the threshold of 2,383, after which she and much of the news media will consider her the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.
There are seven unpledged delegates at stake in Saturday’s caucuses in the U.S. Virgin Islands and an additional 60 up for grabs Sunday in the primary in Puerto Rico. There are also three superdelegates from the two territories who have yet to announce their support for Clinton or Sanders.
In other words, exactly the number she needs to clinch the nomination.
Speaking of superdelegates – the Democratic elected officials and other party insiders whose votes for the nomination are not tied to their state’s results – there are still more than 125 elsewhere who have not come out for either candidate. They could do so at any time, including this weekend, if they’re so inclined.
So mathematically, at least, it’s possible that Clinton could clinch by Sunday night.
Sanders, it should be noted, says such calculations are premature because he thinks the votes of superdelegates shouldn’t be counted until they are cast at the Democratic convention in July. In a last-ditch bid to win the nomination, he is trying to persuade scores of superdelegates who support Clinton to swing his way.
So how likely is it that Clinton could dominate in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico?
She is favored to win in both places, but in order to shut out Sanders in the delegate count, she would need to keep him from reaching 15 percent support in both contests. Both campaigns say they don’t think that’s likely.
“The senator will pick up delegates this weekend in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said. “He campaigned in San Juan and has taken a leadership role in blocking a bill in Congress that would treat the island like a colony.”
There’s not much polling to speak of in either territory.
Sanders made a campaign trip to Puerto Rico last month and has been airing ads there.
But the Clintons are far more familiar figures to Puerto Ricans – as former president Bill Clinton reminded them frequently last month on a day that saw him making six stops there, from the northern coast of the island to the southern one.
He recalled that his wife has been a presence in Puerto Rico since she was first lady doing hurricane relief in 1998, that she sided with the commonwealth in its campaign to get the Navy to discontinue its use of the island of Vieques as a bombing range, and that when she was a senator from New York, many of her constituents were Puerto Rican.
“But the most important thing is, what are we going to do tomorrow? How can we make tomorrow better than today?” Bill Clinton said at a rally in Cayey, in the central part of the island. “If you make her the president, it will not end there. She will be your friend from her first day in office until she leaves.”
Clinton won Puerto Rico against then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary – claiming nearly 68 percent of the vote – and she has outperformed Sanders this year among Hispanic voters. She has the endorsement of the territory’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla.
The politics of a pending bailout of the cash-strapped island could also factor into the primary results.
Sanders said this past week that he plans to introduce his own bill dealing with the Puerto Rico debt crisis after having slammed one supported by Obama and House leaders that Sanders said would make “a terrible situation even worse.”
Clinton has expressed concerns but said she wants to see the bill move forward to stop Puerto Rico’s problems from worsening.
Neither campaign has invested heavily in the Virgin Islands. Bill Clinton campaigned there, but his wife did not. Neither Sanders nor his wife, Jane, made an appearance, although the Sanders campaign has aired a radio ad.
Despite her expectation that she will clinch the nomination on Tuesday, Clinton has been campaigning hard in advance of the California primary in hopes of avoiding what could be an embarrassing loss to Sanders as the nomination fight wraps up.
She told an enthusiastic crowd Friday in Culver City, California, that if “all goes well,” she would emerge Tuesday as the first woman to be selected as a major-party standard-bearer.
Clinton is expected to reach the 2,383-delegate threshold after the polls close in New Jersey – three hours ahead of California.