No, the Associated Press Did Not Steal California for Clinton

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Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets supporters during a primary night event on June 7, 2016 in Brooklyn, New York.  Hillary Clinton beat rival Bernie Sanders in the New Jersey presidential primary.
Hillary Clinton would have won California even if the wire services hadn't called the nomination for her. Photo: Justin Sullivan/2016 Getty Images

At the very time that Clinton supporters and many other Trump-fearing Democrats are hoping to extinguish the Bern, a new source of angst has arisen: the timing of the Associated Press’s announcement on Monday that its interviews with superdelegates indicated Clinton had enough total delegates to clinch the nomination. Here’s the AP’s own description of the backlash:

"When the mainstream media calls the polls, calls the election, because they’re already planning to do it to suppress the vote in California, we will fight on," Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and one of Sanders’ top surrogates, said at a Monday night campaign rally.

Morgan Reed, a rafting guide from Mendicino, California, attended the rally and said it was unseemly for the media to call the race for Clinton so close to the start of voting in California, warning that it amounted to "disenfranchising the vote."

A conservative blog sought to pour gasoline on this fire by alleging active collusion between the Clinton campaign and the wire service. For a Sanders campaign already used to hearing from the candidate himself that the nominating process is “rigged” and that many of Clinton’s primary wins are tainted, this is a dangerous allegation that is assuming mythological proportions.

But any careful analysis of how and why Clinton outperformed her poll numbers (four separate late polls showed her winning by two points, not the double-digit lead she currently holds) indicates the very opposite of the theory of a pro-Clinton late-voter surge (or, more precisely, the discouragement of late would-be Sanders voters). Here’s Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight:

Clinton built a tremendous lead in the state from early mail-in votes, and she never relinquished it. Just after midnight, Clinton was up by 26 percentage points with over a million votes counted. By the time all the early vote was in, she was able to take that advantage up to about 400,000. That margin stayed remarkably consistent as more and more of the in-person vote was tabulated. In other words, Sanders fought Clinton to a draw among voters who cast their ballot at the polls yesterday, but the damage had been done by early voters, who tend to be older and more traditional party loyalists.

Perhaps this is one source of heart-Bern for Sanders supporters that will subside as political life in California returns to normal.