Obama, Clin­ton mine state’s gold

In pres­i­den­tial races, Cal­i­for­nia now pro­vides the fi­nan­cial heft to be used in the states that mat­ter.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - CATH­LEEN DECKER cath­leen.decker @latimes.com Twit­ter: @cath­leen­decker For more po­lit­i­cal news and anal­y­sis, go to www.latimes.com/decker.

SANFRANCISCO— Last­week proved a new just how con­vinc­ingly Cal­i­for­nia has be­comethe place where politi­cians go to rich peo­ple’s homes to talk about the lives of less-for­tu­nate peo­ple they rarely meet.

Pres­i­dent Obama crossed into South­ern Cal­i­for­nia airspace on Thurs­day and promptly took part in two events with donors, one at the home of pro­ducer Chuck Lorre and the sec­ond hosted by en­ter­tainer Tyler Perry. Later he had din­ner with Hol­ly­wood moguls Steven Spiel­berg and Jeffrey Katzen­berg.

“Just din­ner with friends,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

On Fri­day, af­ter an in­ter­view for a co­me­dian’s pod­cast in High­land Park, Obama spoke in San Fran­cisco at the an­nualmeet­ing of the na­tion’s may­ors, then hit fundrais­ers on Nob Hill and at the Golden Gate Bridge-view-home of Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund bil­lion­aire who spent $74 mil­lion to be­comethe na­tion’s most gen­er­ous in­di­vid­ual po­lit­i­cal donor in 2014. Then itwas off to Palm Springs, where Obama had plenty of time for a cou­ple of rounds of golf be­fore Sun­day’s de­par­ture.

Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton sur­faced in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day, hold­ing three fundrais­ers in wealthy en­vi­rons dur­ing which she “con­tin­ued talk­ing about her com­mit­ment to be­ing a cham­pion for ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans,” her cam­paign said. She spoke to the may­ors in San Fran­cisco on Satur­day, then raised money else­where in the city. Clin­ton’s speech to the may­ors, an emo­tional dis­cus­sion of the last­ing stain of racism, was the first non-fundrais­ing event in Cal­i­for­nia of her twom­onth-old cam­paign.

For Democrats, the ab­sence of a con­nec­tion with the non-wealthy in Cal­i­for­nia prompts a cer­tain un­ease, since it cuts against the party’s de­sired im­age and pol­icy pri­or­i­ties. But it also rep­re­sents a gi­ant po­lit­i­cal vic­tory, one whose ma­jor par­tic­i­pants in­clude Clin­ton and her hus­band, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, and Obama.

When a state is com­pletely in the bag for ei­ther po­lit­i­cal party, there’s no need— in­deed, it ar­guably would be waste­ful— to spend the re­sources it takes to mount an ef­fort to per­suade vot­ers. And­with more than a lit­tle help from Repub­li­cans, Democrats have com­manded the state com­pletely for two decades.

As last­week re­minded, Cal­i­for­nia now serves the sin­gle pur­pose of pro­vid­ing the fi­nan­cial heft to be used in the states that mat­ter.

“Cal­i­for­nia’s just dif­fer­ent. It’s a money ma­chine now, more than any­thing else,” said Tom Ep­stein, a for­mer Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion po­lit­i­cal hand and nowa vice pres­i­dent at Blue Shield of Cal­i­for­nia, based in San Fran­cisco. Ep­stein’s ex­pe­ri­ence dates to the days it wasn’t.

Lit­tle more than a gen­er­a­tion ago, Cal­i­for­nia’s ur­ban cen­ters, sub­ur­ban sprawl and ru­ral town swere reg­u­lar bat­tle­grounds for pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. In1988, Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Ge­orge H.W. Bush held two cam­paign events in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia the Sun­day be­fore elec­tion day, a time set aside for big tar­gets. A few­days ear­lier, Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Michael S. Dukakis had char­tered a train to choo-choo up the Cen­tral Val­ley, where he spoke in Han­ford, Fresno and Stock­ton. Bush won— but when he ran for re­elec­tion four years later, Bill Clin­ton used Cal­i­for­nia to paint him­self as the can­di­date who best rep­re­sented the fu­ture. Vot­ers cranky about the re­ces­sion-bat­tered present sided with him.

Clin­ton’s 13-point vic­tory here was strik­ing, and easy. His last Cal­i­for­nia visit came weeks be­fore the elec­tion, with an ex­cla­ma­tion-point foray into the then-Repub­li­can strong­hold Or­ange County.

Ep­stein be­came the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Cal­i­for­nia point per­son, charged with keep­ing Clin­ton in good fa­vor here as he looked to re­peat his vic­tory in1996.

Cal­i­for­nia “was a very high pri­or­ity,” Ep­stein said. “Vir­tu­ally ev­ery trip he did he had a lit­tle re­cep­tion for his sup­port­ers and tried to keep them fired up and en­gaged.... The pres­i­dent re­ally en­joyed Cal­i­for­nia as we all know, en­joyed hang­ing out with the Hol­ly­wood types and en­gaged pretty well with North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. It was a top po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity in away it just isn’t any­more.”

The at­ten­tion dove­tailed with Repub­li­can cam­paigns against illegal immigration that en­raged the state’s grow­ing Latino pop­u­la­tion, whose ret­ri­bu­tion cinched Clin­ton’s sec­ond vic­tory and four sub­se­quent Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial wins here. Pres­i­dent Obama lost the 2008 pri­mary to Hil­lary Clin­ton but won swamp­ing vic­to­ries here in the last two gen­eral elec­tions.

Noth­ing, at this early mo­ment, ap­pears to stand in the­way of Hil­lary Clin­ton win­ning a re­sound­ing pri­mary vic­tory in June, fol­lowed by the sev­enth­straight gen­eral elec­tion win for a Demo­crat in the state. Ev­ery Cal­i­for­nia poll shows her as the front-run­ner.

Hil­lary Clin­ton could use the state’s cut­ting-edge im­age as Bill Clin­ton did, em­brac­ing the tech won­ders of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia— where the state’s cen­ter of po­lit­i­cal grav­ity has shifted — to por­tray her­self as com­pletely in tune with the eco­nomic needs of the fu­ture. That is one of her main planks, but there will be a temp­ta­tion to put for­ward that ar­gu­ment— and all oth­ers— in states that mat­ter.

For his part, Obama­has lav­ished at­ten­tion on Cal­i­for­nia’s fundrais­ing sa­lons — the Bay Area visit was the 20th of his pres­i­dency, most of them in­volv­ing money. To the may­ors on Fri­day, he noted the pres­ence of Gov. Jerry Brown and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Fran­cisco, briefly prais­ing Brown’s moves on cli­mate change and laud­ing the House Demo­cratic leader de­spite their re­cent break over a trade treaty.

Apart fromthat, there was no talk about the state in which he stood. The may­ors, to be sure, came fro­mall over, so parochial­ism might have had lim­ited ben­e­fits. But it seemed sym­bolic nonethe­less that Oba­ma­said al­most noth­ing at all about Cal­i­for­nia be­fore he left to col­lect more of its money.

Eric Risberg As­so­ci­ated Press

PRES­I­DENT OBAMA is greeted by San Fran­cisco Mayor Ed Lee af­ter ad­dress­ing the U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors on Fri­day. The pres­i­dent and Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton at­tended fundrais­ers in Cal­i­for­nia last week.

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