Even as she pressed supporters to look beyond the primary to “what we have to do together when the voting’s done,” Hillary Clinton kept up her sprint across California on Sunday, laboring to avoid an embarrassing loss in the state.
To an estimated 1,800 supporters who braved sweltering temperatures to see her at Sacramento City College, she acknowledged how important a win on Tuesday is.
“I want to finish strong here in California. It means the world to me,” she said to a cheering throng at the college gymnasium.
Earlier in the day in Oakland, speaking in a small sanctuary across from an auto body shop, Clinton called on Americans to “come together” on issues ranging from the economy and education to health care and affordable housing. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” she said.
Clinton’s remarks served to broaden to her explicit nudging of Bernie Sanders, her Democratic primary opponent, earlier in the day.
“After Tuesday, I’m going to do everything I can to reach out to try to unify the Democratic Party, and I expect Senator Sanders to do the same,” Clinton said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And we will come together and be prepared to go to the convention in a unified way.”
Clinton, who inched closer to the Democratic nomination with victories in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend, now could declare victory after New Jersey votes on Tuesday, hours before polls in California close.
Clinton’s appearances in Sacramento, Vallejo and Oakland came after Sanders vowed Saturday to press forward with his insurgent campaign. He has urged superdelegates to shift their support from Clinton and predicted a contested Democratic National Convention in July.
On Sunday at a West Hollywood restaurant, he repeated his insistence on pressing forward, saying “we need a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
And on the same “State of the Union” news show, he criticized donations to the Clinton Foundation, an area of attack he had ruled off limits in an interview with The Sacramento Bee last month.
“If you ask me about the Clinton Foundation, do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships?” Sanders said on the show. “You don’t have a lot of civil liberties or democratic rights in Saudi Arabia. You don’t have a lot of respect there for opposition points of view for gay rights, for women’s rights. Yes, do I have a problem with that? Yes, I do.”
Even as his national hopes have faded, Sanders has surged in California, battling Clinton to a virtual tie.
But Clinton, the former U.S. senator and secretary of state, has been scrambling for days in the state to beat him here and blunt his effort to flip superdelegates to his side.
“I believe on Tuesday I will have decisively won the popular vote, and I will have decisively won the pledged delegate majority,” Clinton said on CNN. “You can’t get much more than that out of a primary season.
At Sacramento City College, hundreds stood in line for hours as the weather flirted with triple-digit temperatures. Paramedics kept busy tending to supporters who fainted inside the gym. Several people were taken out in wheelchairs before Clinton took the stage.
Clinton, as she has done increasingly in recent days, directed her attacks toward presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, reiterating that she believes he is unfit to hold the presidency.
“Here’s somebody in the last few weeks has insulted our closest allies, has praised dictators like the dictator in North Korea and advocated for pulling out of NATO, which is our strongest military alliance,” Clinton said, adding that Trump “has said in very cavalier ways that he doesn’t really mind if other countries get nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia, advocated for a return to torture and even that he would order our military to kill families of suspected terrorists, which by the way is an international war crime.”
Eliza Yates of Elk Grove joined the line at City College around 2 p.m. with her son, grandson and a family friend. She said Clinton is the best-qualified candidate and she trusts her, despite past mistakes.
Sanders “doesn’t have any experience and he’ll make worse mistakes than Hillary,” Yates said. “I think Bernie Sanders should give up now and try to work along with Hillary and support Hillary instead of trying to go to the convention.”
Hallie Hester-Dahl, a teacher in Sacramento, arrived at the rally around 3:30 p.m., wearing a white T-shirt with an outline of Clinton’s face that she made in 2008.
Hester-Dahl said she thinks Sanders needs to step out of the race and let Clinton focus on November.
Trump, she said, “is really going to fight dirty and she needs to put all of her efforts on fighting the Republicans,” she said. “We know she’s going to be the nominee.”
One attendee in Sacramento said he doesn’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that Sanders is pressing forward.
“There’s a number of things that Hillary is addressing that I don’t think she would if Sanders wasn’t around,” said Moises Seraphin, 26, of Oak Park. “It’s interesting to see those new perspectives that wouldn’t be talked about otherwise.
Earlier in the day, at Greater St. Paul Church in Oakland, Clinton watched as a choir swayed and the Rev. Joseph E. Simmons said, “I’m not telling you who to vote for, as long as you vote for the female.”
Taking the microphone, Clinton asked congregants for their vote on Tuesday.
“But what I want to talk about,” she said, “is what we have to do together when the voting’s done. After the votes are counted, that’s when the real work starts.”
At a cafe in Vallejo, awaiting results from Puerto Rico, Clinton was looking past the primary, too. “It’s important to me – not just running for president – but if I’m so fortunate as to be president, not to lose contact with what’s going on in communities, because some of the best information is actually out there.”