Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
June 2, 2016 – 5:35 PM

  • Early hopes of California impact on GOP race faded
  • But then Democratic duel became too close to call
  • Were Clinton to lose here, it would be a major blow

A month ago, it seemed that California’s voters might play an unaccustomed role in choosing a Republican presidential candidate.

GOP contenders showed up at a tumultuous state party convention during the last weekend of April and delegates basked in their attention.

Within a few days, however, Republicans’ hopes of relevancy were dashed as Donald Trump sewed up the nomination and his rivals exited.

That, it appeared, was that. California’s June primary would once again be a non-factor.

But then something else happened. Hillary Clinton’s seemingly smooth path to the Democratic nomination suddenly developed potholes as rival Bernie Sanders not only refused to drop out but rang up enough primary wins to tarnish the glow of inevitability that had enveloped Clinton.

Clinton, moreover, was hammered by a State Department inspector general’s report that she had violated policy by using a private email account for official business as secretary of state. More important from a political standpoint, the report contradicted almost every major statement she had made on the email issue, thus undermining her already shaky credibility.

Suddenly, therefore, California’s June 7 primary became an important, and perhaps decisive, milestone in this strange presidential campaign, with Clinton and Sanders locked in a too-close-to-call duel.

Last week, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that Clinton held an almost meaningless 46 percent to 44 percent lead over Sanders among likely Democratic and independent voters.

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