LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hillary Clinton urged Democrats on Thursday to unite around her candidacy as a way of fending off Republican Donald Trump, telling black community leaders that her advantage over Bernie Sanders far outpaces the deficit she faced in the 2008 primaries.
Campaigning ahead of California's June 7 primary, Clinton pointed to her lead of more than 3 million votes and nearly 300 pledged delegates over Sanders. When she was running against then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton said, they were "neck and neck" in the popular vote but she eventually relented and campaigned hard to elect him president.
"He was about 60 or so pledged delegates ahead, a much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race. But I knew that he had won because it matters how many delegates you have, whether it's 60 or 300," Clinton told supporters at the California African American Museum.
Pointing to Trump as a "loose cannon we cannot afford," Clinton said in 2008 she knew "that whatever differences we might have had in the campaign, they were nothing compared to the differences between us and the Republicans. Now if that were true in '08, that is true on steroids (today)."
Clinton and her advisers have avoided publicly urging the Vermont senator to drop out of the race, saying he has the right to campaign until the end of the primaries as she did in 2008. But her pointed comments in Los Angeles were the closest she has come to suggesting Sanders should move on to allow Democrats to concentrate on Trump, who became the presumptive GOP nominee this week after Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich ended their campaigns.
Clinton was joined at the meeting with community leaders by Reps. Maxine Waters and Karen Bass, who represent the Los Angeles area in Congress and are helping her in the state's upcoming primary. Sanders has vowed to barnstorm the state in hopes of winning a large trove of delegates here and has shown few signs of stepping aside.
"As Maxine has said, we've got to work hard and win big here in the California primary to get ready for the general election," Clinton said. "I will do everything I can to unify the party. I did that when I pulled out in '08, as some of you remember."
Later, during a raucous rally with Latino supporters in Monterey Park, Clinton devoted much of her remarks to what a Trump presidency might mean for Hispanics. She said Trump had "doubled down on his plan to create a deportation force to round up millions of people" and would scrap Obama's immigration executive orders and "finalize a design for a giant wall on the border."
"The best way to prevent that from happening is to make sure he never gets near the White House," Clinton said. She was heckled by some protesters at the Cinco de Mayo rally and a large group of protesters gathered outside the event at East Los Angeles College.
Sanders won Tuesday's Indiana primary and is aiming to pull off a string of victories against Clinton in upcoming contests in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon. Helped by elected and party leaders called superdelegates, Clinton is more than 90 percent of the way to clinching the nomination. But Democrats worry that losses in the May primaries and in California, the nation's largest state, might hurt her outlook against Trump.
She pushed for a show of force in California, telling the crowd, "I know winning big in California will put us on the path to winning big in November."
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