Dem race tightens in California as Clinton barely leads Sanders 49% to 47%: poll

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Clinton, Sanders in tight California race

Hillary Clinton is clinging to a narrow two-point lead over Bernie Sanders in California ahead of the state's June 7 primary, according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

Clinton gets support from 49 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the state, while Sanders gets 47 percent, which is within the survey's statistical margin of error.

And among a wider electorate of all potential Democratic voters in California, Sanders is actually ahead by one point, 48 percent to 47 percent.

Clinton and Sanders running even in California wouldn't affect the overall delegate math in the Democratic race, where Clinton leads Sanders by some 270 pledged delegates and 770 overall delegates. (A tied race would essentially split the state's 475 pledged delegates right down the middle under the Democrats' proportional allocation system.)

But a Sanders victory in California — even by a small margin, and no matter how symbolic — could potentially give him justification to remain in the race heading into July's Democratic convention in July, despite trailing in the delegate math.

"Obviously, if we don't do well in California, it will make our path much, much harder. No question about it," Sanders said on "Meet the Press" last Sunday. "But I think we have a good chance to win in California, maybe win big, and maybe win four or five of the other states that [hold races] on June 7."

In the Democratic horserace, Clinton leads Sanders among likely voters ages 45 and older (63 percent to 33 percent), self-identified Democrats (57 percent to 40 percent), women (54 percent to 41 percent), past Democratic primary voters (53 percent to 42 percent) and whites (51 percent to 46 percent).

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Dem race tightens in California as Clinton barely leads Sanders 49% to 47%: poll
Supporters stand in the crowd cheering as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man covered in face paint waits to see U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign event in Vallejo, California, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters stand in the crowd cheering as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A supporter holds a sign as the crowd waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Women hold up signs and cheer as they wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak during a rally in Carson, California, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA graduate Miguel Rodriguez, 32, (R) and Joannie Small, 4, queue to listen to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at a campaign rally at Casa del Mexicano in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A Bernie Sanders supporter texts before the U S. Democratic presidential candidate's campaign rally at Colton Hall in Monterey, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Michael Fiala
Bernie Sanders supporter Drew Rainer dances prior to the U S. Democratic presidential candidate's campaign rally at Colton Hall in Monterey, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Michael Fiala
An attendee reacts as Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders prepares to enter Kaiser Permanente Arena during a campaign rally in Santa Cruz, California May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
An attendee holds a sign in support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in Santa Cruz, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A woman holds a sign in support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in Santa Cruz, California, U.S., May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters listen as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Maria, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets supporters after a campaign rally in Santa Maria, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders looks as supporters wish him and his wife a happy wedding anniversary at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tyler Morris holds up look-a-like puppet of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is held up during campaign event in San Pedro, California, U.S. May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
A supporter holds a poster of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign event in San Pedro, California , U.S. May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Supporter Tina Boyd holds signs inside Johnie's Coffee Shop, which has been closed since 2000, during a one night only re-opening for a rally in favor of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles, U.S., May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders cheer at a campaign event in Ventura, California, U.S. May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn
Charles Parker of Desert Hot Springs shows off his large replica U S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders head while waiting in line to hear the senator speak at a campaign rally in Cathedral City, California, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
Bradley Giles of Cathedral City waits to enter to hear U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at a campaign rally in Cathedral City, California, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
Supporters cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders arrives to speak at a rally in Anaheim, California, United States, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Supporters wait in line to attend a morning rally for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Anaheim, California, U.S., May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Supporters listen to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak in Santa Monica, California, U.S., May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters hold signs after U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' motorcade passed by in Santa Monica, California, U.S., May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporter Maria Antonio waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak in East Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporter Mette Peluce, 11, waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak in East Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporter Koelen Andrews, 34, waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak in East Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Supporters wait for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak in East Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A supporter waits for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak in East Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
People cheer at a campaign rally for U S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Irvine, California, U.S. May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
Young female supports cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders steps up to the podium during a rally in Vista, California, United States May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Supporters cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in Vista, California, United States, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Joshua Zepeda of Escondido, takes off his shirt as he attends a rally for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Vista, California, United States, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A supporter of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wears a wig in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Stockton, California, United States, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
From left, Myrna Leon, her daughter Bella Leon and her mother Frances Hernandez cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Stockton, California, United States, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
Supporters cheer for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Stockton, California, United States, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
Supporters cheer and hold up banners before the arrival of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California United States May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Brydon Sullivan, 8, wearing a Bernie Sanders costume, waits for the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sanders to arrive at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California United States May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Supporters cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S., May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during a campaign rally at Heritage Hall in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. May 4, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Supporters of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders cheer during his five state primary night rally in Huntington, West Virginia, U.S., April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Marcus Constantino
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - MAY 9: Bernie Sanders supporters cheer during a rally with the Democratic presidential hopeful at Boardwalk Hall on May 9, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sanders is campaigning in New Jersey ahead of the state's primary on June 7. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - MAY 5: Bernie Sanders supporters holding a 'We Love Bernie March' a day before the state Democratic Party Convention march down Congress St. in Portland Thursday, May 5, 2016. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 3: Campaign supporters show their support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks to them during a campaign rally at the Big Four Lawn park May 3, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Sanders is preparing for Kentucky's May 17th primary. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 3: Campaign supporters show their support for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as he speaks to them during a campaign rally at the Big Four Lawn park May 3, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Sanders is preparing for Kentucky's May 17th primary. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - MAY 01: People cheer as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a campaign rally at the Century Center on May 1, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Sanders continues to campaign leading up to the state of Indiana's primary day on Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 29: People listen as Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a rally at the Indiana state Capitol on April 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sanders addressed the rally of mostly union workers and their supporters protesting the Carrier Corp. plans to cut 1,400 manufacturing jobs in Indianapolis and move 2,100 jobs to Mexico. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Clinton also is ahead among those who have already voted, 58 percent to 41 percent.

Meanwhile, Sanders leads among first-time participants (72 percent to 28 percent), independents (68 percent to 26 percent), those younger than 45 (66 percent to 30 percent), men (54 percent to 43 percent) and Latinos (49 percent to 46 percent).

"As throughout the primary season, age is the story in this California tossup," says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "Sanders inspires younger or first-time voters, and Clinton relies upon those who are older or have participated in the past."

Geographically, Clinton is ahead in the Bay Area (56 percent to 42 percent) and Los Angeles County (54 percent to 40 percent), while Sanders has the advantage in the inland/valley areas (54 percent to 44 percent) and the coastal region (58 percent to 36 percent).

Harris, Sanchez lead Senate primary

In the primary to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. - where the top two candidates advance to the November general election, regardless of party - Democrat Kamala Harris gets support from 37 percent of likely primary voters, Democrat Loretta Sanchez gets 19 percent and Republican Tom Del Beccaro gets 8 percent.

No other candidate gets more than 5 percent.

Obama approval at 61 percent, Brown approval at 56 percent

Finally, 61 percent of registered voters in California approve of President Barack Obama's job, while 56 percent give Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a thumbs up. On Tuesday, Brown endorsed Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

The NBC/WSJ/Marist poll was conducted May 29-31 of 557 likely Democratic primary voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.2 percentage points), 991 potential Democratic primary voters (plus-minus 3.1 percentage points) and 1,833 registered voters (plus-minus 2.3 percentage points).

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