The Riggs Report: Hillary Clinton’s California challenge

June 7 primary is key measure for Hillary’s fall campaign

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need California to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. She does, however, need California to give her valuable momentum heading into the summer party convention in Philadelphia.

That, in a nutshell, is the importance of the California primary vote on June 7.

The Clintons, Hillary and Bill, may have their political roots in Arkansas, but they know our state very well.

Dating from Bill Clinton’s days in the White House, the pair have spent a lot of time here—both public and private. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Air Force One was parked so frequently at the then-McClellan Air Force Base that it became almost a routine occurrence.

The Clintons vacationed in Santa Barbara, sent daughter Chelsea Clinton to Stanford University and built a deep network of support. They have strong ties to elected leaders, including those in the Latino and African-American communities.

Given that history, Hillary Clinton ought to be able to score a decisive primary win here, collecting a large share of the state’s 475 pledged delegates.

But with polls indicating a tightening race with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton can’t afford to assume anything. And that’s why she is returning to California to kick off a string of campaign events that will take her through the weekend and up to Election Day.

It’s why Hillary Clinton has purchased expensive television airtime in markets across the state. If she doesn’t score a strong win here, or if she actually loses, that will haunt her into the fall, raising questions about the strength of her candidacy in a matchup with Donald Trump.

That is a key reason for why Gov. Jerry Brown broke his election year silence this week and announced he was endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Brown’s endorsement was anything but full-throated, and it comes very late in the election season. The announcement came in the form of an open letter, not a news conference. In the letter, he talked of the need for Democrats to stop fighting, and to unite behind Hillary Clinton as the best strategy for keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.

Bill Clinton laid the groundwork for the endorsement during an unscheduled meeting last week with Brown at the old governor’s mansion in Sacramento, just prior to Clinton’s rally at Sacramento State on behalf of his wife.

It was an interesting development, given the history of ill will that has existed between Brown and Bill Clinton ever since they were rivals in the 1992 presidential election. But Brown, who was cast as the outsider and the renegade during that campaign, much as Bernie Sanders is currently portrayed, is now a much more establishment figure. And he is nothing if not pragmatic.

Brown’s decision to set aside old differences and endorse Hillary Clinton brings to mind the old saying from legendary Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh: If he had slain all his political enemies yesterday, he would have no political friends today.