Clinton looks to California for final push toward November

By Julie Pace and Ken Thomas - Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Now the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton aimed for primary election victories in California and five other states Tuesday to send her into the general election with fresh momentum. Donald Trump got new blasts from his own Republican Party for his comments on a federal judge.

Clinton’s campaign announced she would visit the general election battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania next week, a clear new sign that she is turning from the primaries to the general election battle with Trump.

She reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on the eve of Tuesday’s voting, according to an Associated Press tally. Her total is made up of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses, as well as superdelegates — the party officials and officeholders who can back a candidate of their choosing.

Clinton greeted news of her achievement with a measured response, wary of depressing turnout and eager to save the revelry for a big victory party Tuesday night in Brooklyn. During a campaign stop in California, she told a cheering crowd she was on the brink of a “historic, unprecedented moment” but said there was still work to do in her unexpectedly heated primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Back on Washington, Sanders and Trump were hardly getting encouragement from others in their parties.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that Trump’s comments about the judge — Trump said he couldn’t get a fair shake on a lawsuit because of the judge’s Mexican heritage — were “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But he said he was sticking with his endorsement.

As for Sanders’ intention to keep fighting until the Democratic National Convention, Dianne Feinstein of California said, “I think it’s a useless effort. And I think in the time it’s going to take to do that, when what we need to do is put the two candidates together and have them march on to a general election together … this is going to make that much more difficult.”

Said Claire McCaskill of Missouri: “I think the math is unforgiving. And I am hopeful he will help us focus on making sure Donald Trump never sets foot in the Oval Office.”

Heading into Tuesday’s voting, Clinton had 1,812 pledged delegates and the support of 571 of the 714 superdelegates, according to the AP count.

The AP surveyed the superdelegates repeatedly in the past seven months. While they can change their minds, those counted in Clinton’s tally have unequivocally told the AP they will support her at the party’s summer convention.

During a rally Monday evening in San Francisco, Sanders said a victory in California would give him “enormous momentum.” He is urging superdelegates to drop their support for Clinton before the gathering in Philadelphia, arguing he is a stronger candidate to take on Trump.

But Sanders has so far been unable to sway the superdelegates, and there were signs Monday that he was taking stock of his standing in the race. Speaking to reporters, Sanders said he planned to return to Vermont on Wednesday and “assess where we are” following the California results.

The senator’s comments came on the heels of a weekend phone call with President Barack Obama, who has stayed out of the Democratic primary to date but is poised to endorse Clinton as early as this week.

She reflected on her historic achievement this year as she made her final swing through California on Monday, and she’s expected to do so again Tuesday night in New York.

“It’s really emotional,” Clinton said. “I’m someone who has been very touched and really encouraged by this extraordinary conviction that people have.”

Glenda McCarthy, a 64-year-old from San Pedro, California, is among the loyal Clinton supporters who have longed for this milestone moment.

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” McCarthy said. “Not just a woman, but a woman who is so strong.”

Clinton’s victory is broadly decisive. She leads Sanders by more than 3 million cast votes, by 291 pledged delegates and by 523 superdelegates. She won 29 caucuses and primaries in states and U.S. territories to his 21 victories.

Trump vanquished his remaining Republican rivals about a month ago, a stunning achievement for the untested political candidate. Despite his controversial statements about minorities and his vague policy proposals, many Republicans quickly consolidated around his nomination.

But Trump has continued to irritate GOP officials, including with his criticism of the U.S. district court judge. Trump has said Judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t be impartial in a legal case involving the businessman because his parents were born in Mexico and Trump wants to build a wall along the border.

Trump was also spending Tuesday in New York, with a prime-time event scheduled at his golf resort in Westchester County.

New Jersey and California are the biggest prizes up for grabs Tuesday, with Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota also holding contests. The final Democratic primary will be held next week in the District of Columbia.

Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey in Compton, California, and Hope Yen, Stephen Ohlemacher, Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Lerer in Washington contributed to this report.

By Julie Pace and Ken Thomas

Associated Press