San­ders’ cam­paign makes Cal­i­for­nia main pri­or­ity

Antelope Valley Press - - News - By REID J. EP­STEIN The New York Times Com­pany

LOS ANGELES — Four years ago, Mar­lene Ma­cAulay ex­pe­ri­enced her po­lit­i­cal awak­en­ing dur­ing Sen. Bernie San­ders’ first pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“Last time it was un­der­ground,” said Ma­cAulay, a 68-year-old book­keeper from Simi Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, who is so com­mit­ted to San­ders that she named her schnau­zer Bernie. In 2016, she said, she joined ad-hoc groups of lo­cal San­ders sup­port­ers that formed on Face­book. It’s not un­der­ground any­more. Cal­i­for­nia, per­haps more than any­where else, shows how the San­ders cam­paign has evolved from a move­ment of true be­liev­ers into a strate­gic ma­chine built to win a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. As San­ders and his ad­vis­ers look be­yond the four early-vot­ing states and to­ward Su­per Tues­day on March 3, they are mak­ing a big play to ac­crue as many del­e­gates as pos­si­ble from Cal­i­for­nia, the big­gest prize on the map.

It is a strik­ing change from what Jeff Weaver, a top San­ders aide, called the “run and gun” op­er­a­tion of 2016. That year, San­ders hoped to make a last stand against Hil­lary Clin­ton in Cal­i­for­nia’s June pri­mary but took only 46% of the vote. His team wasn’t so­phis­ti­cated enough to fo­cus its ef­forts where it could claim a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of del­e­gates — he car­ried just eight of Cal­i­for­nia’s 53 con­gres­sional dis­tricts — al­low­ing Clin­ton to in­crease her del­e­gate lead and clinch the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Now San­ders, of Ver­mont, has the most ro­bust Cal­i­for­nia or­ga­ni­za­tion in the 2020 field. He has 80 cam­paign staff mem­bers in the state, more than any other can­di­date. He has spent time woo­ing the sorts of lo­cal of­fi­cials whom he once de­ri­sively cast as part of the dreaded po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. And no 2020 can­di­date has held more pub­lic events in Cal­i­for­nia than San­ders, ac­cord­ing to a count main­tained by

The Sacra­mento Bee.

Cal­i­for­nia’s de­ci­sion to move its pri­mary from its 2016 slot, at the end of the nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar, to March 3, three days af­ter South Carolina com­pletes the quar­tet of early-state nom­i­nat­ing con­tests, means that the Golden State will have more in­flu­ence than ever in pick­ing a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

Just as South Carolina, with a ma­jor­ity-black Demo­cratic elec­torate largely loyal to Joe Bi­den, is a fire­wall for the for­mer vice pres­i­dent, San­ders is bank­ing on Cal­i­for­nia — ei­ther to res­ur­rect his cam­paign if he un­der­per­forms in the early states or to tur­bocharge it if he reaches March with mo­men­tum.

For now, San­ders is poised to win a large share of Cal­i­for­nia’s del­e­gates. He has placed first or sec­ond in five of six pub­lic polls of the state dat­ing back to mid-Oc­to­ber. Peo­ple close to the cam­paign pre­dict he will come in first or sec­ond — and more crit­i­cally, above the 15% thresh­old needed to ac­crue del­e­gates — in ev­ery con­gres­sional district.

“We do be­lieve that if we do well in Cal­i­for­nia, which we are primed to do, that the del­e­gate break­out from Cal­i­for­nia can be the mo­ment that you walk to­ward the nom­i­na­tion,” said Faiz

Shakir, San­ders’ cam­paign man­ager.

The con­trast be­tween San­ders’ ap­proach to Cal­i­for­nia and that of his top op­po­nents was stark in the days sur­round­ing last week’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate at Loy­ola Mary­mount Univer­sity in Los Angeles. San­ders made the most of his week in the state, ap­pear­ing at five pub­lic events. Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, San­ders’ lead­ing left-wing ri­val, didn’t make any pub­lic stops out­side of the de­bate.

Bi­den hosted two fundrais­ers, posed for pho­tos with strik­ing McDon­ald’s work­ers and had lunch with a handful of vot­ers at a Mex­i­can restau­rant. And Mayor Pete But­tigieg of South Bend, Indiana, ap­peared at six fundrais­ers and a Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee gath­er­ing in the state be­fore hold­ing a pair of pub­lic events Fri­day.

San­ders, who polls show has a clear ad­van­tage with Latino vot­ers in the state, stopped at the Mex­i­can border Fri­day night be­fore hold­ing a rally Satur­day with Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez of New York that drew 14,000 peo­ple to Venice Beach.

“For most can­di­dates, Cal­i­for­nia is a piggy bank,” Weaver said as crews cleaned up af­ter the rally. San­ders, he said, “doesn’t just come here and go to the wine cave — sorry, I had to — and then fly out to Iowa. He ac­tu­ally comes here and talks to vot­ers.”

San­ders and his cam­paign are also do­ing the sort of spade work his 2016 cam­paign didn’t. He has opened of­fices in heav­ily Latino re­gions of the state and is do­ing the sort of out­reach to lo­cal elected of­fi­cials he re­sisted last time.

Nick Carter, the na­tional po­lit­i­cal out­reach di­rec­tor for the 2016 San­ders cam­paign, said it was “chal­leng­ing” to get San­ders on board back then. “He was giv­ing his time to vot­ers and not just cur­ry­ing fa­vor with politi­cians,” Carter said.

One of the of­fi­cials San­ders courted this year was Reg­gie Jones-Sawyer, a state assem­bly­man from South Los Angeles. Jones-Sawyer had been an en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of Clin­ton in 2016 — a Lit­tle Rock na­tive, he has deep roots with the Clin­tons — and had in May en­dorsed Sen. Ka­mala Harris of Cal­i­for­nia for the 2020 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

In Novem­ber, Jones-Sawyer took a meet­ing with San­ders on the side­lines of the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party State Con­ven­tion. Harris was still in the race but strug­gling. San­ders made the pitch, and Jones-Sawyer told San­ders he was his sec­ond choice.

“Be­fore she dropped out, Bernie San­ders was smart enough to come to me, talk to me per­son­ally,” Jones-Sawyer said at the Venice Beach rally, where he de­liv­ered one of the warmup speeches for Oca­sio-Cortez and San­ders. “Then, all of a sud­den, it hap­pened. She wasn’t in. And then, I reread his criminal jus­tice plan and re­al­ized, for my district, South LA, it works great.”

Weaver, who was San­ders’ cam­paign man­ager in 2016, said the team learned many lessons that year that it is lean­ing on in this race.

“Hav­ing done this be­fore re­ally does mat­ter, right?” Weaver said. “And there’s mis­takes we made last time — I won’t de­lin­eate here — that we won’t make again.”

Cal­i­for­nia, with 40 mil­lion peo­ple, has long been con­sid­ered im­pos­si­ble to win through cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion and tac­ti­cal spend­ing alone. It’s too big and, with 15 me­dia mar­kets, too ex­pen­sive to sat­u­rate with tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing — although bil­lion­aire can­di­dates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg seem poised to test that propo­si­tion this year.

Cal­i­for­ni­ans can vote by mail as soon as the day af­ter Iowa’s Feb. 3 cau­cuses, mean­ing vot­ers here might be in­flu­enced more by the re­sults in the first four states than by any con­tact they re­ceive from a cam­paign or­ga­nizer or ads they see on TV.

That’s why se­nior Cal­i­for­nia Democrats, who ac­knowl­edge San­ders has the premier pres­i­den­tial team in the state, scoff at the idea that his or­ga­ni­za­tion can save him if he per­forms poorly in the early states.

“All that mo­men­tum that comes out of Iowa and New Hamp­shire, I think, still is so de­ter­mi­na­tive,” Gov. Gavin New­som said.

New York Times

Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, speaks at a cam­paign event last week in Venice Beach. Cal­i­for­nia is the linch­pin of San­ders’s 2020 strat­egy, a state he hopes will tur­bocharge his cam­paign on Su­per Tues­day — or re­vive his can­di­dacy if he un­der­per­forms in the early states.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.