In a debate that was largely about President Trump’s current impeachment, several candidates ‘hawking’ books that they wrote, NAFTA-USMCA talks, healthcare, and climate change, very little was mentioned of the state hosting Thursday’s debate: California.
Senator Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Bernie Sanders, Philanthropist Andrew Yang, and Businessman Tom Steyer largely avoided talking about California during the debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and largely only focused on it when it became fodder for insults.
Pete Buttigieg’s $2,800 a plate fundraiser earlier in the week at Hall Rutherford in Napa Valley was the most any of the candidates talked about California last night.
Senator Elizabeth Warren called the fundraiser as one of elites in a ‘Napa wine cave.”
“We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” pointed out Senator Warren. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
Despite Mayor Buttigieg retorting that Warren herself was a millionaire who had similar fundraisers in California, other candidates mentioned the ‘wine cave’ constantly throughout the debate and largely pared down talk about California to donors in the Bay Area. Senator Klobuchar had even quipped that she had gone to caves in South Dakota and not a wine cave.
Newsom’s fight against Trump and California’s diversity
The role of climate change also brought praise for Governor Gavin Newsom for several of the candidates, noting that he has been currently fighting Trump on car emissions standards throughout the state.
“What I think we need to do is get back into the international climate agreement,” stated Senator Klobuchar. “I will do that on day one.”
She went on to say that Governor Newsom’s efforts to bring forth more environmental laws and combating wildfires has gone against the current administration and “defied every step of the way by the Trump administration.” Yang followed up by agreeing that wildfires were a major indication of climate change in California.
California’s diversity also briefly came up with Senator Klobuchar and Steyer pointing out the states demographics and bringing up President Trump’s stance on immigration.
However, by and large, national and international issues were of the main concern, with Senators Biden and Sanders barely even mentioning any Californian issues.
Disappointment from Californian supporters at LMU
“It’s a national debate, so of course I was expecting things like the impeachment,” said Brittney, an LMU student who was outside watching the debate with many others. “But we all wanted to know more about immigration and what they would actually do for us here. But they never did. It was kind of a let down.”
Lucas, another LMU student, was similarly disappointed.
“I’m a Bernie fan all the way. And he showed passion. But they spent solid minutes talking about their books. It felt like a plug and not an actual debate. They could have talked more about wildfires, which isn’t just a California issue by the way, but instead they made jokes about their books.”
An absence of California for a more nationwide appeal
Analysts gave a different reaction.
“The debate did what it was supposed to do,” said Martin Byrne, who helps conduct opinion polls directly after debates. “It brought the candidates out in a critical state and they talked about issues.”
“I’m sure many Californians wanted more, but this was to a national audience. True, the California primary was moved up to March and they could have won over some more people depending on the candidate, but right now it’s the February primaries caucuses that they’re worried about.”
“I was a little surprised that more Californian issues didn’t come up, but I guarantee you, come mid to late February, the entire nation will get sick to death hearing about Californian issues, much like we are all tired about Iowan farming issues in late January.”
“This was only the beginning of focusing on California.”
The next Democratic debate will be held January 14th in Des Moines, Iowa. California’s statewide primary will be held on Super Tuesday, March 3rd.