Mar 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden's last-ditch effort to steal Sanders' thunder in California

A Biden for President sign through the leaves of a palm tree

Outside the Biden campaign's office in Los Angeles. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden made a last-minute push across California on Super Tuesday, hitting Oakland and dispatching his wife to San Diego before they end the day in Los Angeles — home to the only advertised Biden campaign field office in the largest state in the country.

Why it matters: While Biden is hoping to build a comeback on his blowout win in South Carolina, nearly one-third of the delegates up for grabs in tonight's Super Tuesday contests vote here in California. Bernie Sanders, who narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016, has been dominating the state's polls.

Biden doesn't have to win California. But he does need to tap a significant enough chunk of the state's trove of delegates to keep Sanders from running away with the nomination.

  • "One of the biggest misconceptions of 2020 is that California is Sanders' territory," a Biden campaign official in California told Axios.
  • The official said Sanders probably will do well in the state but insisted that Biden's events have had strong and consistent support.
  • Many California voters have waited to cast their ballots, as Politico reported.

Biden's campaign website lists just one brick-and-mortar field office in California, compared with four in Texas. (The campaign official said there are several other "staging locations" or unofficial offices in locations around the state.) The official California field office sits strategically in Latino-dominated East Los Angeles.

  • Down the street, mostly Spanish-speaking voters walked into the Centro Estrella center to cast votes for the Democratic candidate of their choice.

What to watch: Hispanics or Latinos make up the largest racial-ethnic group in California — 39% of the state population, a higher percentage statewide than non-Hispanic whites. This is the first year Hispanic voters make up the largest ethnic-racial minority group of the electorate.

  • But a recent state poll found Biden winning just 15% of Hispanic, Democratic-likely voters in California — compared to 42% for Sanders. Latinos also propelled Sanders to his decisive victory in Nevada.

The big picture: Sanders has campaigned often in California, drawing large crowds. His campaign claims to have knocked on 1 million doors in the state.

  • Bloomberg dumped more ad dollars there than any other state as of early February and got the endorsement of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He campaigned throughout California while other candidates were focused on Iowa.
  • California hasn't been as big of a focus for Biden. Yet, influential California Democrats including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn have endorsed him.
Go deeper