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Sanders, Harris Set for CA Showdown    08/22 06:29

   SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Bernie Sanders has promised to win the 
California presidential primary in March, but home-state Sen. Kamala Harris is 
defending her turf --- putting the two on a collision course in a state both 
see as a critical steppingstone to the White House.

   Sanders' campaign advisers rank California among what they call the crucial 
"first five" contests. By making a strong showing in those states --- Iowa, New 
Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and California --- they believe Sanders can 
establish himself as the dominant candidate in the crowded Democratic field by 
early March. He plans to roll out a major plank of his campaign --- a proposal 
to combat climate change --- in Northern California on Thursday.

   Harris, meanwhile, has locked down endorsements from most of the state's 
Democratic elected officials and recently announced having 10 paid staffers in 
California. Both candidates are in the state this week to address Democratic 
Party leaders in San Francisco.

   But investing in California, the biggest prize in the presidential 
sweepstakes with 495 delegates, remains a gamble for both. It's far from clear 
that the effort will be money well spent if the candidates don't place near the 
top in the earlier states and if their campaigns are flagging by the time 
Californians start voting. (Mail-in ballots start going out Feb. 3 for the 
March 3 primary.) And in a state where most campaigning happens on the 
airwaves, having a grassroots network in San Francisco or Los Angeles may not 
save a candidate who is already sinking.

   At this point, no other Democrats are betting on California like Harris and 
Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden has five staff members in the state, 
with several focused on fundraising. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has no 
paid staff but is building a robust volunteer corps. Sanders, a Vermont 
senator, has 11 staffers on his payroll.

   The problem for candidates: "How do you budget for a California primary when 
you don't know how you've done in the first four states?" asked longtime 
Democratic strategist Bill Carrick, who is based in Los Angeles.

   "The first four states are incredibly consequential to who actually ends up 
a contender" in California, he said.

   Still, Sanders' campaign could spend $25 million or more chasing votes, a 
sign of his campaign's commitment to the strategy. To manage the campaign in 
sprawling California, Sanders' campaign has broken up the state into five 
regions and started to build organizations in those areas. The idea is to 
target places like the Los Angeles region and the San Francisco Bay Area as 
states within a state, honing in on local concerns. On a recent swing, he 
discussed immigration in San Diego, homelessness in Los Angeles and housing in 
San Francisco, where a typical one-bedroom apartment rents for $3,500.

   In each area "we look at it like it's Iowa, like it's New Hampshire," said 
campaign spokesman Joe Calvello.

   Harris' campaign is relying on lawmakers backing her candidacy to amplify 
her message in their home districts. They're also helping raise money for her 
--- she sent out a plea for donations Tuesday, warning that Sanders has raised 
$45 million this year and has a large grassroots organization returning from 
his 2016 presidential campaign.

   Harris also benefits from a campaign team with a long winning record in 
California. The consulting firm running her campaign, SCRB Strategies, is led 
by longtime San Francisco political hand Ace Smith, who is well versed in the 
state's diverse geographic areas and complicated delegate rules and has worked 
for Hillary Clinton and former California Gov. Jerry Brown.

   Being California's home-state senator is a benefit and a liability, said 
Brian Brokaw, a longtime Harris adviser who does not have a formal role with 
the campaign.

   "It's an opportunity in that it's a state where she's poised to do very well 
and has a strong base of support --- and needs to do well," Brokaw said. "But 
at the same time, we live in a world of finite resources and having to spend 
money in your home state typically isn't at the top of any candidate's priority 
list."

   Sanders and Harris present generational, gender and racial contrasts for 
voters. Sanders, 77, is white; Harris, 54, is the daughter of immigrants from 
India and Jamaica.

   But they aren't necessarily chasing the same voters. Sanders is firmly 
anchored in the party's liberal wing. But the shape of Harris' coalition 
remains largely unknown, said Carrick.

   "Is she going to try to take votes from Biden or Bernie or Warren?" he asked.

   Sanders turned in a noteworthy second-place finish in California to eventual 
nominee Clinton in 2016, taking 46% of the vote and carrying 27 of 58 counties. 
For his army of veteran volunteers, the job has changed. They spent the last 
election introducing the self-described democratic socialist to voters.

   The fight this time is for indecisive voters who are also giving a strong 
look to Harris, Warren and other candidates who share similar ideas.

   In 2016, "People were like, 'It's Hillary. Who is Bernie?'" said volunteer 
Sanders organizer Melissa Michelson. But this time, she finds voters a bit 
confused with the array of choices.

   In making a pitch to Democrats, "the response I get a lot is, 'Waiting and 
seeing,'" Michelson said.

   Despite residing in Los Angeles, Harris has held few public events in 
California since launching her campaign in Oakland. Instead, most of her visits 
have been for closed-door fundraisers.

   But her campaign has been mobilizing volunteers through "Camp Kamala" 
training events in San Diego and Los Angeles.

   Most of the volunteer events listed on Harris' website are aimed at other 
states, like an organizing rally in North Carolina and phone banks in Nevada 
and South Carolina. Sanders' website lists about 20 upcoming volunteer events 
in the Los Angeles area alone.

   With intense competition in a large field, Sanders appears to be aiming at a 
broader range of voters this time: He recently did a video interview with 
Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B.


(KR)

 
 
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