Mighty Cal­i­for­nia en­vys po­lit­i­cal im­por­tance of Iowa, N.H.

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Vot­ers here are frus­trated that they aren’t see­ing much of the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, de­spite an early Demo­cratic pri­mary aimed at mak­ing the state more po­lit­i­cally prom­i­nent.

“Vot­ers want to see can­di­dates come out and press the flesh, visit them where they live, work and where they eat,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the state Democrats. “They re­ally want as much at­ten­tion as the folks in Iowa and New Hamp­shire are get­ting, and we’ll see if that hap­pens.”

Mr. Salazar said the state’s Feb. 5 con­test is wide open.

“Any­thing can hap­pen in Cal­i­for­nia,” he said. “We would like to be po­si­tioned as the state that takes our Demo­cratic nom­i­nee over the top.”

So far, there has only been a slight uptick in cam­paign vis­its.

The Fresno City Coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion two weeks ago to in­vite can­di­dates from both par­ties to par­tic­i­pate in town-hall-style meet­ings. Coun­cil mem­ber Brian Cal­houn said the hope­fuls should not just be fly­ing over cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia to raise money in Hol­ly­wood or Sil­i­con Val­ley.

Sev­eral can­di­dates from each party have spo­ken to em­ploy­ees at Google’s Moun­tain View cam­pus in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area.

Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, gar­nered lit­tle press at­ten­tion af­ter an ap­pear­ance in Sil­i­con Val­ley last month, and most of the vot­ers who lis­tened to his speech did not stay to greet him upon its con­clu­sion.

Six Demo­cratic can­di­dates will be in Los An­ge­les on Aug. 9 for a Hu­man Rights Cam­paign de­bate on ho­mo­sex­ual rights.

Vot­ers here trend lib­eral and are frus­trated with Congress, say­ing Demo­cratic lead­ers should al­ready have forced a U.S. troop with­drawal from Iraq. They also are fed up with talk of “po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity” pre­vent­ing an end to the war.

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the West Hol­ly­wood City Coun­cil voted last month in fa­vor of im­peach­ing Pres­i­dent Bush and Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney. And ac­tivists opened an of­fi­cial “im­peach­ment cen­ter” in Los An­ge­les.

In the Bay Area, there is mea­sur­able sup­port for long-shot can­di­date Demo­cratic Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich of Ohio, an im­peach­ment backer whose plat­form in­cludes cre­at­ing a De­part­ment of Peace.

When asked, most vot­ers say the Demo­cratic con­test is largely a bat­tle be­tween Sens. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York and Barack Obama of Illi­nois.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign ral­lied vol­un­teers in Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco on July 28, while a “Camp Obama” to train for votere­d­u­ca­tion projects was held in Bur­bank over the same week­end.

Sup­port­ers across the state hold voter-reg­is­tra­tion drives and or­ga­nize “road trips” to neigh­bor­ing Ne­vada to cam­paign for Mr. Obama in ad­vance of that state’s early cau­cus.

There were sev­eral Bay Area events planned around the Illi­nois sen­a­tor’s birth­day on Aug. 4, in­clud­ing clean­ing up Lake Mer­ritt while wear­ing Obama gear.

“What do you get for the man who seems to truly have it all?” the in­vite asks. “How about the jewel of Oak­land?”

Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama raised more than $8 mil­lion each in the Golden State, pulling in cash from Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and Hol­ly­wood’s top stars. The for­mer first lady has slightly more fi­nan­cial sup­port in the state, but vot­ers are split among those who think she is the most qual­i­fied can­di­date and oth­ers who worry she is not electable.

“This coun­try is on a down­ward spi­ral, and I think Obama has a bet­ter chance of win­ning the gen­eral elec­tion,” said Chris Con­dit, an en­gi­neer in San Diego. “He’s much more sin­cere than Hil­lary. Plus, he’s a man.”

But Mrs. Clin­ton has the sup­port of Cal­i­for­nia blog­ger Steve Soto (www.theleft­coaster.com) for her will­ing­ness to fight.

“She and her team have al­ready demon­strated that they will take no pris­on­ers in deal­ing with the GOP, will hold the me­dia ac­count­able, and have the req­ui­site tough­ness and yes, ruth­less­ness for what is ahead,” he wrote.

Feb. 5 is dubbed “Su­per-Duper Tues­day,” as Cal­i­for­nia and New York lead a pack of states hold­ing pri­maries.

It is pos­si­ble a clear pri­mary win­ner will not emerge in the four ear­li­est con­tests — Iowa, Ne­vada, New Hamp­shire and South Carolina — and Cal­i­for­ni­ans will have a unique op­por­tu­nity to shape his­tory.

Cal­i­for­nia Democrats al­low in­de­pen­dent vot­ers to par­tic­i­pate in their pri­mary, and early ab­sen­tee vot­ing there means Cal­i­for­ni­ans can cast their bal­lots weeks be­fore the pri­mary, sooner than some in the “big four” states.

Cal­i­for­nia also does not hold a “win­ner-take-all” pri­mary, which means any can­di­date get­ting at least 15 per­cent of the votes will score some al­lo­ca­tion of con­ven­tion del­e­gates.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Repub­li­can can­di­date Sen. John McCain made an un­der­whelm­ing im­pact in Sil­i­con Val­ley last month.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Golden Girl: Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton re­mains quite pop­u­lar among Cal­i­for­nia Democrats.

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