California is the top prize in the calculations of every Democratic presidential candidate, and Bernie Sanders has been working in the state for months, generating concern for his rivals.
Sanders has been organizing intensely among Hispanics and young voters, producing campaign materials in seven languages and going, as one of his assistants put it, “where most candidates don’t go.”
Mike Bloomberg has tried to respond to Sanders with saturation advertising, including paid ads on television channels in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon that also reach California. Pete Buttigieg held three public events in the last week to take advantage of his initial momentum in the state. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren remain competitive.RELATED
The attention reflects a growing concern among Sanders’s rivals that, if he manages to perform well enough in the state – with his 415 delegates at play on Super Tuesday, March 3 -, he could take a difficult delegate advantage of overcome.
“California is one of those unique places because presidential elections don’t take place here often,” said Ace Smith, one of the state’s best-known political strategists. “There is simply a thirst to win.”
Competing in the state is not easy. It is home to some of the country’s most expensive media markets, there are about 20 million voters and delegates are recognized both at the state level and in each of the 53 congressional districts.
A candidate must obtain 15% of the votes throughout the state to receive 144 delegates. Another 271 are assigned to get 15% in a congressional district, and there are districts with a strong Democratic charge that offer more delegates.
The Sanders campaign has long considered California a key state, deploying more than 80 members of its campaign staff there last year and sending Sanders frequently. He was scheduled to perform two campaign events on Friday in areas of strong Hispanic presence, following an event held this week in the San Francisco Bay area, a Democratic stronghold that offers many delegates.
Sanders is broadcasting television commercials in all markets. Members of his campaign team took to the streets a few days after the early voting began on February 3, knocking on doors offering to collect them, a legal practice in California, and his campaign acts have polling stations where voters can deposit your ballots. It also tries to show that the organization can be more powerful than television ads.
Smith, who was responsible for the Hillary Clinton operation in California in 2016, said the key question for Sanders is how much support can he get in the state. If you approach 40%, it will be difficult for the rest of the contestants to become delegates, which would give you a broad advantage.
Recent polls place Sanders above the other strong candidates in the state, with Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg and Warren on the limits of getting delegates.