Opinion writer

THE MORNING PLUM:

Polls continue to show that Hillary Clinton may win a sizable victory in New York tomorrow — which would then begin to make the delegate math for Bernie Sanders look still more daunting. Which will raise the question: If the nomination process ends with Clinton securing a majority of the pledged delegates and winning the popular vote, but falling short of an outright majority of delegates without the help of super-delegates, how far will Sanders take this?

In an interview with an ABC News affiliate in New York, Sanders has now said in perhaps the most explicit terms yet that he will take this battle all the way to the convention:

 ANCHOR: If you do not win, how far will you take this?

SANDERS: We’re going all the way. Every person in this country, every state in this country, has a right to cast their ballot for who they want to see the Democratic nominee be.

ANCHOR: All the way to the floor in Philadelphia?

SANDERS: Yup.

ANCHOR: Do you think that’s good or bad for the party, if this race goes that long and that far?

SANDERS: I think it’s great for the party, and I’ll tell you why. The only way the Democrats are going to win, is if there is a large voter turnout. We are helping create that large voter turnout….young people and working people are now participating.

It’s not entirely clear what Sanders means by this. He may mean he is going to continue battle for super-delegates up to the start of the convention, i.e., deep into June, at which point he might concede if it’s becoming obvious that she will win a majority of the delegates during the Philadelphia gathering. Or he may mean that he will continue this battle into the convention itself, which could mean division during the festivities, at a time when the party wants to unify behind the nominee before an engaged national audience.

I think the former scenario is defensible; Sanders has every reason and incentive to keep his supporters engaged as long as possible. But it is hard to imagine that Sanders will allow this to stray into the latter scenario, which could be potentially destructive to the party’s chances in the general election.

For one thing, Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine has explicitly said that “there’s no way” that Sanders will be associated with anything that helps Donald Trump or Ted Cruz get elected president, which would be “destructive to the future of this nation.” What’s more, Sanders constantly says climate change is the single greatest threat to the planet, adding that must act to avert an urgent threat to the futures of our children and grandchildren — his own included. While Sanders likes to say the global climate deal falls short, the Paris accord may end up being our best near term hope for building an international effort to tackle the problem. Implementing it could allow us to get to the point where dramatic innovations in energy technology begin to make solving the problem a realistic possibility.

Sanders knows Clinton would do everything possible to facilitate U.S. engagement in the global climate deal — including protecting Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is key to meeting our international commitments — while a GOP president would do everything possible to undermine both. Sanders has to know that allowing the latter to happen could prove absolutely catastrophic. He can’t possibly want to play any role in facilitating it.

Finally, if you look closely at what Sanders is saying, you can discern that he is signaling a potential endgame to all of this. Here’s what he said on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday:

“I will tell you something that also is of concern to me….even here in New York state, you have a voting system which makes it impossible for independents to participate in the Democratic primary, that makes it impossible for people to register on the day of the election, which many states do, which is going to result in a lower voter turnout than I would like to see.”

This signals that Sanders may push the party to stand for reforms to the nomination process — such as open primaries that allow independents to participate and same day registration — as part of a kind of unity settlement with Clinton in which he does all he can to rally his supporters behind her. Jane Sanders has already signaled the same. Yes, there are legitimate debates over what sort of reforms are actually desirable, and there are all kinds of obstacles to such a push actually bearing fruit. And for all we know, Clinton may rebuff any such demands by Sanders.

But whether Sanders actually goes through with this reform push or not, the broader point is that Sanders himself is signaling (in his comments above to the ABC affiliate and to CBS) that taking this as far as possible will ultimately be a good thing for the Democratic Party’s effort to protect the country from President Trump or Cruz, precisely because it will engage more young people in the process. Taking him at his word that this is his actual goal, he isn’t going to push his effort to contest the nomination so far that it might encourage his supporters to question the legitimacy of the whole process, which could have the opposite effect.

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* BIG DAY AT THE SUPREME COURT: Today the Court hears arguments in the high-takes lawsuit by Texas and two dozen states against Obama’s executive actions on deportations. But law professor Erwin Chemerinsky predicts the challenge may go down on standing grounds:

The only harm claimed by Texas is the cost of its processing drivers’ licenses for those who are remaining in the country. Yet nothing in federal law requires that any state government lose money in the issuance of drivers’ licenses. It is an entirely self-imposed “cost” and thus not a harm of the sort that the court — and especially its conservative justices — allow as a basis for standing to sue in federal court. If that were enough, any state could concoct a way to interfere with federal policies any time it wanted to bring a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, legal experts agree that Chief Justice John Roberts may side with the government on standing grounds, to avoid a deadlocked court on the underlying partisan dispute over the proper extent of the president’s authority to defer deportations.

* ALL EYES ARE ALSO ON KENNEDY: While Roberts may be amenable to the government’s standing argument, Robert Barnes explains what could weigh on Anthony Kennedy:

Kennedy wrote the court’s decision in 2012 striking part of Arizona’s attempt to crack down on illegal immigrants in the state. The Obama administration’s brief relies heavily on Kennedy’s finding that the federal government and the executive have considerable power in designing the nation’s immigration policy.

So watch today for any statements from Kennedy that seem to speak to the executive’s broad discretion in enforcing immigration law in particular.

* HILLARY HOLDS LEAD IN  NEW YORK:  A new Emerson College poll finds Hillary Clinton continues to hold a large lead over Bernie Sanders among likely Democratic voters in New York, 55-40. Meanwhile, a new CBS News poll finds puts Clinton’s lead in New York at 53-43.

The Emerson poll was taken entirely after the Thursday debate. Clinton’s lead in the polling averages is holding at 55-41. If Clinton does run up a sizable win tomorrow, the delegate math for Sanders will begin to look very daunting.

* TRUMP CRUSHING IT IN NEW YORK: The new Emerson College poll finds Donald Trump beating John Kasich and Ted Cruz among likely GOP voters by 55-21-18. The new CBS poll puts it at 54-21-19.

The polling averages have it at 53-22-19, and virtually all recent polls have put Trump over 50 percent. If that holds, that would give Trump a large delegate haul, potentially still making it possible — if difficult — for him to win the nomination before a contested convention.

 * WHAT A BIG NEW YORK WIN WOULD DO FOR TRUMP: The First Read crew explains that a big New York win could lower the percentage of remaining delegates he needs to win the nomination outright:

Say Trump wins 85 delegates out of New York — which is entirely doable given the state’s winner-take-all rules both statewide and in each congressional district — while Cruz gets five and Kasich gets five. Well, that would lower the 61 percent of remaining delegates that Trump needs to 57 percent. And it would all but mathematically eliminate Cruz’s chance of getting a majority on a first ballot.

Of course, if Trump does fall short of an outright majority, and Cruz can deny him that majority in the first round of convention balloting (while not winning it himself), it does become less likely that Trump can secure that majority on later balloting.

 * HILLARY AND BERNIE MUST UNIFY EVENTUALLY: E.J. Dionne spells out a possible route to unity: they will ultimately recognize that they have far more in common ideologically with each other than either does with any GOP candidate:

At a time when ideological polarization between the parties is so high, such contrasts should be obvious. But the bad blood between many of Sanders’s supporters and Clinton obscures the stakes and presents Democrats with a special challenge….The pro-Sanders young are unlikely to vote Republican, but if too many stay home in November, much of what Sanders and Clinton believe in could be consigned to the dustbin. That’s why the day after New York, the Brooklyn Brawlers would do well to sit down over a couple of Brooklyn Brewery ales and figure out a way forward.

It might come a lot later than that — say, in June — but it’s likely to turn out fine.

* THE MOST RIGHT WING NOMINEE IN…A LONG TIME: The New York Times takes a long look at Ted Cruz’s record, including his opposition to legalization and to abortion in cases of rape and incest, and his desire to roll back the clock on gay marriage, and concludes:

He would be the most conservative presidential nominee in at least a half-century, perhaps to the right of Barry Goldwater, testing the electoral limits of a personal ideology he has forged meticulously since adolescence. And he has, more effectively than almost any politician of his generation, anticipated the rightward tilt of the Republican Party of today, grasping its conservatism even as colleagues dismissed him as a fringe figure.

As it happens, senior Democrats agree wholeheartedly with the first half of this analysis.