As entertaining as it’s been to watch the first results of the Democratic primaries roll in, the serious business of identifying who will run opposite Donald Trump to become the next elected President of the United States of America hasn’t really started yet. Bernie Sanders is riding high on a wave of momentum, but many of his supporters appear to have forgotten the fact that he also won New Hampshire in 2016 before fading away. Joe Biden is being run off in some quarters before the states most likely to back him have had their voices heard. One of the major players hasn’t even started running yet.
When we take all of the above into account, a case could be made that the California primary could be the acid test for every Democratic candidate with aspirations of becoming President. That isn’t necessarily a surprise – it is, after all, the exact result that was hoped for when California was bumped up the schedule to early March. It does, however, give voters in Santa Clarita Valley and the wider area a potentially larger say in the eventual outcome of the race than voters almost anywhere else in the country. Increasingly in the camps of those candidates still standing, an attitude of ‘win California, win the contest’ is beginning to develop.
Saying that the race could be all-but over as early as March may seem like jumping the gun. After all, caucuses and primaries will continue until June, and the final result won’t be announced until July. Everything is still up in the air. If calling the contest was about as likely as calling the result of a roulette wheel spin before, the impending arrival of Michael Bloomberg into the race takes it from a roulette wheel spin to an online slots game. There is literally no way of guessing what’s going to happen next in slots – you just place your bet, spin, and wait to see what happens. Given the importance of spin in modern political races, you could make a compelling argument that online slots are an appropriate metaphor for the political process as a whole.
Despite California being early, though, it’s hard to see how any candidate who puts up a poor showing in that first week of March could continue. There are 494 delegates to play for, and whoever comes up with the fewest number of them is out of the race. Another poor showing for Biden would likely hole him below the waterline. It may already be too late to save Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, but if she tanks in California as she did in Iowa and New Hampshire, it will be curtains for her. For Bernie Sanders and Joe Buttigieg, who will be the frontrunners coming into California barring a strange turn of events, there will only be one question to worry about – what happens when Bloomberg gets involved?
California is where Bloomberg intends to plant his flag, and he’s already making every possible effort to do exactly that. While the Sanders-Buttigieg show was coming on in Iowa, he was spending money in California. When Joe Biden ran away from New Hampshire because he knew he was going to take a hiding when the count came in, Bloomberg was still busy spending money in California. He’s been such a strong presence on television and radio that some voters could be forgiven for thinking that he hadn’t stood in the previous primaries. Beyond that, they could even be forgiven for thinking that he wasn’t already winning the contest. We expect to see Michael Bloomberg in Santa Clarita Valley. We expect to see Michael Bloomberg literally everywhere in the state that he believes he can pick up votes from.
It’s Bloomberg that makes California so important. Until the California primary happens, we’ll have little indication of whether the billionaire truly has the sway to turn this electoral season in his favor, or whether he’s poured his money down the drain trying to chase a race that appears, right now at least, to be heading Bernie Sanders’ way. This promises to be a fascinating contest. A well-heeled establishment billionaire who appeals to middle and upper-class Democratic voters going toe to toe with the socialist firebrand who has energized America’s youth. Experience versus idealism. A moderate versus a man who many feel is a political extremist. In California, the Democrats will find out what their supporters want from them, and whether they like the message or not, they’re going to have to roll with it and get behind the winning candidate.
It’s no secret that the Democrats would very much like it if their supporters heeded their message and stopped voting for Bernie Sanders. He’s not a ‘real’ Democrat – he considers himself to be an independent until election season rolls around. He’s also said to be too old, too stubborn, too physically weak, and too inexperienced to take the nomination. Senior Democrats fear that Trump will paint Sanders as a communist and a threat to national security, and wipe the floor with him. At the same time, the fact that Sanders leans so far to the left is precisely why so many Democratic voters like him. Unfortunately for the Democrats – and for Bloomberg in particular – there’s every reason to suspect that California will go Sanders’ way no matter how much money Bloomberg spends on campaigning in the state. Sanders currently leads on every poll. Bloomberg is tasked with stopping his momentum – and he might be the only candidate who has any realistic prospect of doing so.
If you’re a Democrat voter and you live in the Santa Clarita Valley area, we’re approaching ‘make your mind up’ time. We know who’s likely to remain in the race by the time March 3rd rolls around. We already know what the candidates stand for. It’s not our business to tell you who or what to vote for, and we have no intention of doing so. What we will tell you to do is make sure you go out and vote. It’s likely to be a close fight and one that will have huge implications both regionally and nationally. Whether it’s your first-ever vote or your fifteen, it may well turn out to be your most important.