Four months after the first voters went to the polls, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed a historic victory in the Democratic race for president last night, following victories in California and New Jersey and smaller states in between.
Clinton’s advantage in pledged convention delegates seems insurmountable, though Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders did not immediately concede defeat in the Democratic battle, instead vowing to compete in next week’s final primary in Washington, D.C. He then vowed to "take our fight" to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July.
"Let me thank all of you for being here tonight. And let me thank all of you for being part of the political revolution," Sanders told his supporters at a rally in Santa Monica, Calif., late last night. "Our mission is more than just defeating Trump; it is transforming our country."
In response to chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" from the crowd, he later added: "You all know it is more than Bernie; it is all of us together. … What this movement is about is millions of people from coast to coast standing up and looking around them and knowing that we can do much much better as a nation."
But in the wake of Clinton’s clinching the Democratic nomination — which included wins yesterday in South Dakota and New Mexico, while Sanders won Montana and North Dakota — she thanked Sanders for "exciting young people" and urged party unity.
"As we look ahead to the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that unites us," said Clinton, who also touted her role as the first female candidate to win a major-party presidential nomination.
She quickly pivoted to the general election, reiterating her recent criticisms of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, stating: "Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief."
Despite Sanders’ refusal to immediately end his bid, however, one of his key backers on Capitol Hill yesterday expressed confidence that the Vermont senator and his supporters would not disrupt the Democratic Convention.
"I wish he were the presumptive nominee, obviously," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told E&E Daily yesterday.
"But I think Bernie is going to do the right thing," Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, added. "He’s not going to squander the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump. And I don’t think he’ll make it the lesser-of-two-evils kind of discussion. I think he’ll do the right thing. It’s just when and how becomes the question."
He also asserted that "unity is a two-way street," suggesting that Democrats must incorporate ideas from Sanders’ candidacy into their platform.
"You have to integrate that message into the platform, and you have to concede some respect and attention to the Bernie folks, to delegates and to Bernie himself. That’s the Democratic Party that we like," Grijalva said.
Whitman ponders voting for Clinton
Trump continued to pick up GOP delegates in New Jersey and California last night — he became his party’s presumptive nominee in May when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich ended their bids. But former U.S. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman — who is also a former governor of New Jersey — told E&E Daily yesterday that she didn’t vote for Trump in her home state’s Republican primary and will look elsewhere in the general election.
"I’ve already voted for Kasich, and I’m not going to support Mr. Trump in the general election," said Whitman, who served as EPA administrator under President George W. Bush.
"He’s a misogynist. He demeans women, minorities, the handicapped, veterans. He demonizes entire groups of people because of their ethnic background. He seems to have no feeling for the Constitution. … He’s playing on people’s emotions and fears, and he’s a bully," she added.
Whitman also raised concerns over Trump’s energy platform, which he detailed in a speech in Bismarck, N.D., late last month, including vows to roll back regulations on carbon emissions and clean water, as well as expanding domestic oil, gas and coal production on public lands (E&E Daily, May 27).
"As far as his energy policy and his environmental policy, I’m opposed to almost everything he’s talking about because he’s talking about rolling back all the protections we have to ensure that we have clean air and clear water and a good quality of life," said Whitman, who is a co-chairwoman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which advocates for nuclear energy.
She went on to assert that she is concerned for her grandchildren’s future: "I want them to have the quality of life that we’ve been able to enjoy, and I think Donald Trump threatens that in a very real, severe way."
Whitman also criticized Trump’s insistence that environmental protections hurt the economy, including his focus on revitalizing the nation’s coal industry.
"He is buying into this idea that somehow the environment and economic growth cannot go hand in hand, and that is just wrong," Whitman said, noting that Trump’s focus on coal — which has suffered in part because of low natural gas prices — is "against the times."
But while Whitman said she will not support Trump in the general election, she acknowledged that climate policy is not a "primary mover" in politics, pointing instead to the economy, jobs and security issues.
"It’s not the best place for the conversation. While I care about it and I think a lot of people who are following the issues and following what’s happening in the environment in general care about it … I don’t think for the general population it’s going to rise to being their second and third most important issue. But it’s important to remind people about it," Whitman said.
Whitman noted that she is still making up her mind about whom to support in the general election.
She suggested that a third-party candidate could help split the Electoral College and force the House to select the next president — "Frankly, I think we’d get a much better candidate if the House is making the decision than what … our options are now," — but in the meantime said she remains undecided.
"It could be Hillary Clinton, but I don’t want another four years of what we’ve just had because I don’t think that has served us terribly well. Hillary Clinton has a lot of flaws … but at least the flaws she has are within the recognizable parameters of flaws that we’ve seen in candidates before. She’s not off the charts, but Trump is, as far as I’m concerned."
Reporter Arianna Skibell contributed.