Hillary Clinton on Monday spoke sentimentally about being on the verge of making history, and shattering the glass ceiling that eight years ago suffered 18 million cracks, but ultimately did not give way for her to become the first female presidential nominee.
Bernie Sanders, holding his own press conference 350 miles away, gruffly talked about needing a sandwich.
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As the two rivals spent their final day criss-crossing California, making their closing arguments before the last big primary day, their states of mind were clearly worlds apart.
Clinton is just 23 delegates shy of the nomination, according to the Associated Press, a hurdle she’s likely to easily clear on Tuesday when the polls close in New Jersey, the first of six states expected to report results during the night.
With that, Clinton is expected to fulfill what she was not able to accomplish on the exact same date in 2008, when she conceded to then Sen. Barack Obama.
Speaking to reporters during a brief media availability in Compton, Clinton reflected upon the moment.
“It’s really emotional. And I am someone who has been very touched and really encouraged by this extraordinary conviction that people have,” she said. “I do think it will make a very big difference for a father or a mother to be able to look at their daughter, just like they can look at their son, and say you can be anything you want to be in this country, including president of the United States.”
At the same time, Sanders, clearly irritable, spoke with reporters during a press conference in Emeryville, and was repeatedly forced to justify why he’s staying in the race.
It didn’t get off to a good start. And it didn’t get much better.
Sanders bristled when a female reporter appeared to interrupt and pressed Sanders for his response to the notion that it was sexist to be “standing in the way of what could be the first female president.”
“Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me, ma’am,” Sanders said, as the reporter began to ask her question. “Other hands are up as well.”
After he heard what she was asking, Sanders responded, “Is that a serious question?”
“Your question implies that any woman, that any person, that any woman who is running for president is by definition the best candidate,” Sanders said. “To say that it is sexist—So if Hillary Clinton runs for president, is your point that it is sexist for any man to oppose her?”
Another reporter asked if Sanders’ pledge to do everything he can to keep Donald Trump from the presidency would include “trying to thwart Hillary Clinton from becoming president?”
“Trying to thwart Hillary Clinton from becoming president?” Sanders repeated incredulously. “The issue is who is the better candidate to become president of the United States and to defeat Trump. Right now, our focus is on winning the largest state in this country. Winning South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico and doing the best we can in New Jersey. New Jersey is going to be a difficult state for us. But our goal is to get as many delegates as we possibly can and to make the case to superdelegates that I believe the evidence is very strong that I am the strongest candidate.”
The next question: “At what point do you become a spoiler, though?”
Sanders responded that he would not engage in speculation, adding, “If I win tomorrow in California, if we do very well, and I don’t know that we will, we may, doing well in other states, if there are superdelegates out there who say, you know what? Looking at the objective evidence of polling, looking at the objective evidence of who has the strongest grassroots campaign and can bring out the larger voter turnout, which I think is crucial for November, if some of the super delegates think it is Bernie Sanders, I think that that is not an insignificant thing.”
In the middle of the barrage, Sanders gave a bit of insight into the toll the final sprint of a primary can take, when the candidate can barely find time for a mid-day meal.
“We are working as hard as we can. As soon as I leave here and get some food in my stomach, I’m going to go out and be talking to a lot of people, and doing everything that I can,” he said.
But even as he spoke about keeping up the fight all the way to the convention, and waging a battle for superdelegates, he opened the door – ever so slightly – to the possibility that the end may be near.
“Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation,” Sanders said, after he was asked about the possibility of endorsing Clinton. He then added about his schedule, “We’ll be in L.A. tomorrow night and we’ll be taking a plane back to Burlington.”
Sanders has spent recent weeks campaigning hard in California, even as it’s become clear that his path to the nomination has all but disappeared.
While Clinton is 23 delegates shy of the magic number of 2,383, Sanders so far is coming up 816 short.
Neither Clinton nor Sanders will likely be able to win the nomination without any superdelegate support, but Sanders faces a near-impossible task to overtake Clinton among pledged delegates. He would need to win roughly two-thirds of the pledged delegates between Tuesday’s contests and next week’s primary in the District of Columbia – a massive jump from the roughly 46 percent of pledged delegates he’s won thus far – in order to pass Clinton.
But the harsh reality of the numbers has been no match for the high of the movement that Sanders has sparked – and the wins that he’s continued to rack up.
While Sanders scoffed at questions of whether it is sexist for him to continue his campaign, Clinton spoke glowingly of the opportunity to become the first female commander in chief.
She talked about her supporters as passionate people who have voted for her for a number of reasons, including the statement it makes.
“Among those reasons is their belief that having a woman president will make a great statement, a historic statement about what kind of country we are, what we stand for,” she said.
Clinton said she planned to be in touch with Sanders, hoping to unify the party behind her against Trump after a contentious primary battle.
“I certainly am going to be reaching out to Sen. Sanders,” Clinton said. “Because we’ve got to be unified going into the convention and coming out of the convention to take on Donald Trump and to repudiate the kind of campaign he is running and make it very clear that’s not the kind of president or commander-in-chief we want.”
Steven Shepard, Nick Gass and Nolan D. McCaskill contributed to this report.
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