Any candidate jumping in to, what is destined to be, a crowded 2020 Democratic primary will confront a stark political reality: the biggest, most expensive state in the country now actually, truly matters.
California is not a customary playground for presidential aspirants. There are no historic caucus sites or snowy treks through New England hamlets. But operatives in the party are increasingly concluding that voters in The Golden State will have an immense, even oversized, role in choosing the 2020 Democratic nominee.
That’s because, last September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Prime Time Primary Act into law, which moved up the state’s primary date from June to the beginning of March. California also allows mail-in balloting, which means that a sizable portion of its voters will be casting ballots early in February. And thus, a state that sent 475 delegates to the convention in the 2016 presidential election will be witnessing primary voting at roughly the same time as New Hampshire held its first in the nation primary in that last presidential cycle.
“California will become not just a factor but a major, major factor in presidential primaries henceforth,” Ace Smith, California state director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign told The Daily Beast.
The ways in which this could alter the course of the 2020 primary are profound and still being gamed out by operatives and potential candidates as well. At least two California Democrats are rumored to have presidential ambitions. And the consensus among top Democratic officials is that either Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti or Sen. Kamala Harris could stand to benefit from California’s prominence in the 2020 calendar; but probably not both.
“It will give anybody who runs from California somewhat of an advantage or it’s going to kill them,” Howard Dean, former Democratic presidential candidate and former chair of the Democratic National Committee told The Daily Beast. “California is going to be the big winnower.”
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