Cal­i­for­nia or bust? Clin­ton hopes to strike gold

Jerusalem Post - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - • By JAMES OLIPHANT and DAN WHITCOMB (Mike Blake/Reuters)

WASH­ING­TON/LONG BEACH (Reuters) – If Hil­lary Clin­ton ends up los­ing Cal­i­for­nia to Bernie San­ders, it will be be­cause of vot­ers like Nal­lely Perez.

Perez per­son­i­fies what a Clin­ton sup­porter was sup­posed to look like: a 24-year-old Latina who grew up idol­iz­ing the for­mer first lady as a ground­break­ing woman in pol­i­tics. But when she votes in Cal­i­for­nia’s Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­test on Tues­day, Perez will be sup­port­ing San­ders.

“Ev­ery­thing that I would stand for, he has said it,” said Perez, a stu­dent at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, Long Beach, who said she likes San­ders’s prom­ises of tu­ition-free col­lege and uni­ver­sal health­care. “We found our voice in him.”

Cal­i­for­nia is the fi­nal big con­test in the long, bit­ter fight for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. Opin­ion polls show the Demo­cratic race there tight­en­ing in re­cent weeks. Where Clin­ton, a for­mer sec­re­tary of state, once held a big lead over San­ders, a US se­na­tor from Ver­mont, the two now are nearly tied.

A Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia/Los An­ge­les Times poll re­leased on Fri­day showed San­ders with a 1-per­cent­age-point lead over Clin­ton in the state, 44 to 43 per­cent, a swing from March when Clin­ton held a 9-point edge.

On the Repub­li­can side, Don­ald Trump has earned the nom­i­na­tion for the Novem­ber 8 elec­tion, and Clin­ton is close to cap­tur­ing the num­ber of del­e­gates she needs to head the Demo­cratic ticket. Her cam­paign ex­pects that a win in New Jersey ear­lier on Tues­day will se­cure the nom­i­na­tion.

But a loss in a pop­u­lous Demo­cratic strong­hold like Cal­i­for­nia could lend cre­dence to Trump’s claim that she is a weak­ened can­di­date.

“Clin­ton would like to go to the nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion with the wind at her back and tamp down the per­cep­tion that she doesn’t ex­cite Democrats,” said Rodell Mollineau, a Demo­cratic strate­gist in Wash­ing­ton.

A San­ders vic­tory will not clear the way to his nom­i­na­tion un­less it trig­gers a de­fec­tion by scores of su­perdel­e­gates – party of­fice-hold­ers and of­fi­cials – from Clin­ton’s camp, an un­likely out­come.

San­ders has vowed to use Cal­i­for­nia as a spring­board to the party con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia in July. A win, es­pe­cially a big one, would val­i­date the self-de­scribed demo­cratic so­cial­ist’s de­ci­sion to stay in the race to the end and give him lever­age to in­flu­ence Clin­ton’s poli­cies and cabi­net picks.

“The game he is play­ing is to be able to draw as many con­ces­sions as he can out of the party and the Clin­ton cam­paign,” Mollineau said.

The area around Long Beach, part of the 47th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in Cal­i­for­nia, has emerged as a key bat­tle­ground. San­ders cam­paigned there a week ago; Clin­ton was in the area on Fri­day and may re­turn again be­fore Tues­day’s vote.

The dis­trict’s con­gress­man, Rep. Alan Lowen­thal, re­mains one of the few Demo­cratic mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives un­com­mit­ted to either Clin­ton or San­ders. His dis­trict once leaned Repub­li­can, but is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly lib­eral thanks to an in­flux of Latino and Asian-Amer­i­can vot­ers who com­prise the ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents.

The large mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion might be ex­pected to trans­late into an ad­van­tage for Clin­ton, who has con­sis­tently shown strength with such groups. But a Reuters re­porter who toured the area ob­served an abun­dance of San­ders sup­port­ers.

In the Bel­mont Shore neigh­bor­hood of Long Beach, San­ders vol­un­teers Gor­don Winiemko and Jon Fell­man manned a ta­ble on the side­walk out­side a cof­fee­house.

They had a long dis­cus­sion with Shawn Cole­man, a 24-year-old film stu­dent, who told them he pre­ferred San­ders to Clin­ton be­cause “I think I’m a lit­tle bit more for what Bernie has in mind for the fu­ture, I think he’s right, and Hil­lary doesn’t re­ally seem on it.”

Lia Roldan, a 42-year-old set dec­o­ra­tor in the film in­dus­try who lives in Long Beach, said she was vot­ing for San­ders be­cause “he has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in stand­ing up for causes that ben­e­fit the work­ing class.”

Roldan said she would re­luc­tantly sup­port Clin­ton in a con­test against Trump.

“I’ll vote for her only be­cause I don’t want a Repub­li­can to win, but I don’t re­ally feel in my heart that I would vote for her other­wise,” she said.

Stop­ping Trump was on the minds of those who said they would vote for Clin­ton on Tues­day. “I love Bernie,” said Sami Reed, 42, the CEO of a cor­po­rate well­ness busi­ness, in­ter­viewed in a thrift shop, “but I’ll prob­a­bly vote for Hil­lary just be­cause I don’t want Trump to win.”

A sec­ond-term con­gress­man, Lowen­thal told Reuters he has come un­der a “tremen­dous amount of grief and pres­sure from San­ders peo­ple” to sup­port him, but he would not say for whom he would vote.

At Cal­i­for­nia events, Clin­ton has been care­ful to fo­cus her crit­i­cism on Trump, not San­ders, while talk­ing up her na­tional security ex­pe­ri­ence. She will al­most cer­tainly need the sup­port of pas­sion­ate San­ders’ back­ers to de­feat the out­spo­ken Trump in Novem­ber.

A HIL­LARY CLIN­TON sup­porter yells out with a pic­ture of Don­ald Trump on her phone as Clin­ton speaks dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia, on Satur­day.

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