White House hopefuls swarm rival’s home turf
By BRIAN SLODYSKO
BEVERLY HILLS — The Democrats who want to be president are swarming California, competing for campaign cash and media attention while courting longtime allies of home-state Sen. Kamala Harris on their rival’s own turf.
Former Vice President Joe Biden swooped in to Los Angeles on Wednesday to raise money and snack on tacos with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has yet to offer an endorsement despite backing Harris in the past. Biden went to three events over two days, including one that netted $750,000 and was attended by Hollywood powerbrokers, as well as “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Sully Sullenberger.
Pete Buttigieg met with labor activists and LGBT donors, and promised to “vigorously contest California.” The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also attended at least six fundraisers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, including one hosted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Others who have visited the state include Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
California has long been treated as an ATM by national Democrats, who often dash in and out for lucrative fundraisers. But the state has drawn a more intense focus after the date of the 2020 primary was moved up from June to March, with Harris uniquely positioned to capitalize on her home-state popularity at a make-or-break stage in the race.
Her aides have said California is central to their strategy to win the nomination, and they have promoted endorsements from elected officials as Harris plowed her way through fundraisers.
But what once seemed to be a formidable wall of support appears to have softened.
Harris has trailed others in recent state polls. Susie Tompkins Buell, a Harris backer who was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors, has held a fundraiser and promoted others for Buttigieg. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, a longtime Harris ally who endorsed her, traded praise back and forth this past week with Buttigieg, who said the two were trying to set up a meeting.