A Sanders crowd in Santa Monica last week. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

There are four possible options for why Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in California on Tuesday by a wider margin than most polling suggested. They are as follows.

1. Votes are still being counted, including provisional ballots, and Sanders will win once they're all tallied.
2. Clinton won the early and absentee vote. But Sanders would have won on Election Day -- and overall -- if the Associated Press hadn't called the race on Monday, depressing turnout, and if the rules were clearer.
3. The results were rigged.
4. Hillary Clinton was the preferred candidate of California voters.

Each of those arguments has been made over the past couple of days. Well, the fourth one hasn't really been made explicitly, except as a rebuttal to the first three. The first three, you will be unsurprised to learn, have mostly been offered by supporters of Sanders as a way of explaining how California, the Sanders campaign's last-stand Alamo, somehow ended the same way the Alamo did.

Let's walk through these.

1. Votes are still being counted.

This is true. The California Secretary of State's website explains why this is normally the case: More people vote by permanent absentee ballot, which requires additional verification. Damaged ballots and provisional ballots also need an extra level of inspection, since they are not machine-readable.

As of 5 p.m. on Thursday, more than 2.5 million ballots remained uncounted. Since the margin in the state is only 450,000, according to the state's most recent tally, that suggests that things could change.

Sanders has suggested that, in fact. After he met with President Obama at the White House, he gave a brief statement, saying that he "look[ed] forward to the full counting of the votes in California, which I suspect will show a much closer vote than the current vote tally." During his rally on Thursday night in D.C., speaking to a cheering audience, he was more vague, saying that "the results have not yet come in from California."

The Associated Press has already called the race in the state under the assumption that the results wouldn't change to a Sanders victory once all the ballots are in.

It's easy to see why. Clinton won the absentee and early vote -- pre-Election Day voting, in other words -- by a wide margin, building a 400,000-vote lead among the ballots counted by the time polls closed. Now remember that those 2.5 million ballots remaining to be counted include a lot of absentee ballots. In fact, 1.8 million of those ballots are vote-by-mail, including 340,000 in Los Angeles, a county that Clinton won by 15 points.

As of 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the AP had Clinton up 1.94 million votes to Sanders's 1.5 million. The most recent state tally, as of 7:30 p.m. Pacific on Thursday, has Clinton at 1.98 and Sanders at 1.53. The total votes counted were 73,109 -- and Clinton won 58 percent of those votes.

So why the optimism from Sanders? Included in those 2.5 million uncounted ballots are 705,000 provisional ballots, ballots cast at the polling place that need to be validated because, for example, voter information didn't match registration. Those ballots, the Los Angeles Times notes, "tend to have come from Democrats, young and Latino voters." It's less than half of Clinton-leaning vote-by-mail total, but it's not nothing. (Also note that not all of these ballots will be found to be valid.)

If those votes include a lot of young voters who cast provisional ballots, that could aid Sanders. But as we noted on Wednesday, counting more votes from Latino votes probably wouldn't.

2. Election Day turnout was suppressed.

We'll start here:

King's argument is not a great one, for two reasons. The first is that turnout in Democratic primaries has been down almost uniformly since 2008. Per data from the U.S. Election Atlas, only in Michigan and New Mexico was there a big increase in turnout over 2008. The increase in Michigan is easily explained: Eight years ago, Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot thanks to some weirdness with the state trying to jump the line on primary timing. (Read all about it!)


Turnout in New Mexico, which also voted Tuesday, was up! But turnout in New Jersey was down, almost as much as in California.

The second argument is that, you know, all the votes aren't in. See above.

But this is a more extensive argument than King's one tweet. As votes came in on election night, Clinton's lead stayed steady, suggesting that the vote on Election Day was split about even between the two Democrats. Is that a function of Sanders voters staying home?

It's hard to say. Without exit polling in the state, it's difficult to determine how turnout among demographic groups that were favorable to Sanders might have compared to past elections. (That data will become available in a few weeks.) We do know that, despite the regular argument that Clinton's national lead (with superdelegates, for example) has somehow harmed Sanders, the Vermont senator has had no trouble winning contests even since it became obvious that he couldn't win.

But we'll now note that the graph above includes the current vote tally in the state. That count is about 1.5 million votes behind what were cast in the state in 2008. If a large part of those 2.5 million ballots are added to the total, turnout in California will be up, thanks to a slew of absentee ballots. Over the past few cycles, the percentage of votes cast by absentee has steadily increased, from 41.7 percent of the ballots cast in the 2008 presidential primary to 69.4 percent in the 2014 primary. That suggests that Clinton's big lead in the absentee vote would have been hard to surmount anyway.

It is the case that the process for non-Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary was tricky, necessitating requesting the proper ballot. We'll see once voter turnout data is complete how many of these voters managed to vote -- and how that compares to past contests.

3. The results were rigged.

Thanks in part to Sanders's constant commentary about the process being rigged and his simultaneous disparagement of the "corporate media," anecdotes about difficulties at polling places or glitches in vote results have reached near-legendary status as evidence of how The Establishment is rigging the game. As usual, that was alleged in California.

Clinton could have spotted Sanders 20 percentage points in the state and still won the pledged delegate majority by a wide margin. Believing that she risked her candidacy on committing a felony to ensure a 10-point win -- instead of a 1-point win! -- is bananas.

4. Hillary Clinton was the preferred candidate of California voters.

This is probably the right explanation.