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the California Democrats 2019 Fall Endorsing Convention. (Evan Symon for California Globe)
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California Becomes A Battleground State Among Democrats

With five major presidential nominee candidates with their own bases, a fight brews up in California

By Evan Symon, November 18, 2019 6:21 am

At the California Democrats 2019 Fall Endorsing Convention in Long Beach there was a noticeable divide.

While everyone stated that their main goal was to have a candidate to defeat Trump, few can agree right now at who that is. Previous campaigns had more rounded candidates with broad appeal. In 2016 Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump never gave up their leads both nationwide and in the California primaries, despite a Bernie Sanders rally to with a few points in the California primary. In 2012, Mitt Romney managed to stave off Newt Gingrich by a large margin.

But for the Democrats in 2020 every candidate is managing to hold onto their base. At the Convention, unlike past years and elections where candidate supporters were side-by-side, candidates were spread out all over the convention center, with very little of the intermingling among supporters that was once common less than a decade ago

“We’re preferring to discuss our candidate amongst ourselves”

Tulsi Gabbard supporters setting up outside the Convention. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

“We’re keeping it so that like-minded people only talk with each other,” explained a Pete Buttigieg supporter who asked the Globe not to use her name. “We’re preferring to discuss our candidate amongst ourselves. I know how this sounds, but talking to other supporters can be frustrating, and we really need to keep together to have Pete win.”

An Elizabeth Warren supporter setting up with her group outside the convention center also mentioned keeping to themselves. “If we’re see with them, everyone might think we’re having second thoughts about Warren,” explained the anonymous Warren volunteer while making signs. “When we have watch parties and plan, the parts of the night that get the most crazy are when other candidates, or God forbid, 45 is mentioned. This way we can focus on Warren and get her elected.”

Democratic candidates and their bases of support

The divide among supporters was also largely seen in the convention. The Globe circulated both the conference rooms and the floor itself and gathered a quick tally of supporter information. Some help was given by supporters who candidly explained who their base was in California.

Buttigieg supporters tended to be white, with many being Midwest transplants or gay, but he also had a 50-50 split of supporters by gender as well as the greatest number of irreligious supporters. Warren supporters were mostly white women. Biden’s supporters were a mix of different people with a heavy Union-member base, but the median age among supporters was 55. Harris had a strong presence due to the Convention being held in California, but it was mostly female and African-American. And the Bernie Sanders supporters were largely younger, but also skewed farthest to the left. Other candidates had a mix as well, but with far fewer than the other five candidates.

Tom Steyer supporters markedly away from other candidate supporters at the convention on Friday. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

Their bases, combined with extensive polling, shows that Californian Democrats are playing close to base despite overall national changes. While Kamala Harris rose and fell throughout the year thanks to a strong debate performance and subsequent weaker performances, all other candidates ebbs and flows were marginal compared to their average voter percentage never falling or rising more than 10% in a month.

“Right now we’re picking and choosing based on what we want most from a candidate, then not letting them go,” said John Tucker, a Sacramento-area Delegate and Sanders supporter. “I was with Sander in 2016, but it shifted with time to Clinton. In 2008 it was largely Clinton here, then Obama. In ’04 I can’t begin to tell you how many times a new top supporter came about in California early on. I know some guys who still have 10 posters in their garage from that one.

Dems encouraged to vote for the nominee no matter what just to get rid of Trump

The convention floor on Friday. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

But this year no one is looking at new data, or acting upon it. Warren kept her Native American supporters even after they found out she lied about being partially Native. I talked to several and they said they were sticking by her no matter what because she had good plans.

Everyone is so sick of Trump they can only see one person to fix it. This is why the leadership is encouraging that everyone vote for the person who becomes the nominee no matter what – they just want Trump out.

Many Californians my age remember in 1976 the huge Ford and Reagan Republican National Convention battle that made both sides angry and fractured supporters so much that it helped Jimmy Carter win. Or in 2016, a lot of Bernie supporters still voted for him in the general and took away a lot of needed votes for Hillary. That’s what we don’t want.”

Whether supporters remain to be split in California remains to be seen. While it’s likely that Democrats will fall in line behind the chosen candidate, the scene at the Convention on Friday didn’t show the more united front that so prevalent in the past.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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