Tuesday’s announcement of Kamala Harris ending her campaign opened up a new phase for the top four candidates in the Democratic primary.
Every major candidate has strengths and weaknesses in the Golden State
The campaigns of Senator Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have all given indications of a more focused California strategy. Biden’s campaign has focused on getting endorsements from members of Congress such as John Garamendi and Ami Bera. Warren’s campaign has gone after Harris’ female supporters, a demographic of which has been largely split in California between Harris and Warren. Sanders’ team have increased grassroots efforts wile the campaign of Pete Buttigieg has reached out to African-American groups, a another top Harris demographic, after polls showing low numbers of supporters for him there.
Harris had been polling between 6-10% in California in recent weeks, a remarkable drop since her lead in California as late as July. Despite falling, her status as a California native and being the only West Coast front runner made her popular in California and other Western states, with large numbers of support among women, African-Americans, and law enforcement groups.
A question of who to support
“That’s what we were banking on. Slugging it through Iowa, New Hampshire and powering through February primaries to get to California,” said Kenesha Brown, a former worker on the Harris campaign. “But she wasn’t polling well enough in Iowa, even with Gavin Newsom coming out to help.”
“I remember seeing her a day or two before and something just felt wrong. Something in her body language told you that this was it. Everyone was expecting to stay until at least Iowa, since she moved so much of us there. I mean, I was getting calls about people complaining about how cold it was and not knowing why people thought Cedar Rapids was considered a city.”
“But here we are now. It wasn’t a shock, but a lot of us are still coming to terms with it. The question is who do we support now?”
The importance of Iowa and voting blocs to California
The question is on many minds right now, including many in California. John Tucker, a Sacramento Democrat who helps conduct polling on behalf of the Sander campaign, says the next few months are critical.
“Right now all eyes should be on Iowa,” explained Tucker. “Right now Pete Buttigieg is winning polls by a wide margin, and is a lock for the fast growing LGBTQ voting bloc, and that can give him momentum until California. But he’s not polling well among minorities, which are huge Democratic voting blocs in California. Plus his young age and his only elected experience being a mayor in Indiana work against him. Warren and Biden are both moving up fast here, but there are concerns over their age. Plus, Warren is starting to alienate male voters, with Biden alienating female voters. Warren also has no support among Native Americans anywhere after she lied about her heritage. They’re a small voting percentage, but they’re big enough that they can make a difference, especially in a close primary.”
“Then there’s Sanders. He has age concerns too, but he still has a hold on the youth vote and those on the farther left.”
“Everyone is still in it in California, at least among those four. And they are all looking at that hole created by Harris bowing out. Getting even half of those supporters is a big enough bump to pull ahead.”
A challenging run up to the California primary
Both Brown and Tucker agreed that Candidates will slowly have more events in California going into January, especially if there is bad weather affecting the Midwest or Northeast. They also agreed that they will all reach out to Harris to gain her valuable support.
“Harris’ strategy always included a win in California,” noted Brown. “She’s going to make sure she still gets that with the person she backs.”
“After Iowa, those not polling well in New Hampshire or South Carolina will flock to Nevada and California,” said Tucker. “The West Coast no longer has a major candidate in the race, so they’ll be voting on the issues, not so much the geography.”
“And for California, it may make them the biggest primary race, simply due to the earliness of the race and having the largest bloc of delegates for the Convention.”
“It’s why everyone is now trying to get in good with her,” surmised Brown. “She’s now the key to victory for most of them.”
The Iowa caucus election will be held on February 3rd, while California’s primary vote will be a month later on March 3rd.
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