Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is locked in a heated battle with insurgent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for California delegates, hit Fresno on Saturday evening in a closing campaign blitz ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary.
Speaking in Edison High School’s gymnasium, Clinton drew a crowd of 1,500, which filled the space. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, drew 7,000 to Selland Arena in his Fresno visit on May 27. Sanders drew more than 5,000 to his May 29 rally at Fresno Fairground and also had a big crowd earlier the same day for a stop in Visalia.
“I am so happy to be here again with all of you in Fresno,” Clinton told the crowd. “I want to say my husband and I can’t get enough of Fresno.”
Former President Bill Clinton spoke May 23 at Fresno State during a California campaign swing for his wife.
And Clinton did sprinkle some local references into her speech.
On water: “If I am fortunate enough to be your president, we are going to work on water and we are going to get this fixed.”
On immigration: “I will defend and I will work for the rights of all people who have an immigrant past to have an American citizenship future. I will work for comprehensive immigration reform from the very first days that I am in the White House.”
On farmers and farmworkers: “I will make sure that right here in Fresno and the surrounding area, where we see such productive agriculture, where the farmers and the farmworkers produce half of the food that we eat, that 1.2 million farmworkers in California will not be rounded up and deported.”
Clinton’s main target, however, was presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom she went after early and often in her 23-minute speech.
“We are having an election that is going to determine whether we move forward with confidence and optimism, solving our problems,” Clinton said. “Uniting in the face of whatever challenges confront us. Or whether we become fearful and turn on each other, and disrespect one another. When I pulled up here in the (Edison High) parking lot, I saw this slogan, ‘One tiger, many stripes.’ ”
As she began doing this past week, Clinton stressed that Trump does not have the right temperament to be president, using comments he has made criticizing American allies, his seemingly positive comments on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and advocating killing family members of terrorists.
Clinton also promised that she would not deport more than 1 million field workers in California, something Trump has said he would do.
There is a three-part test a person must pass to show they have the qualifications to be president. She called it “a big job interview.”
It starts with committing to the “three most fundamental pillars” of building families and providing opportunity – jobs, education and health care. Next comes the question of whether one can be commander-in-chief. Finally, can the person bring people together? Can they unite?
The prospect of a Trump presidency, Clinton said, represents “one of the biggest threats to our liberty.”
While Clinton continually went after Trump, she never once mentioned Sanders.
Without a doubt, however, he was on her mind, because the underlying theme of the entire evening was voting in Tuesday’s California primary.
Besides calling on people to cast their ballots, Clinton also touted her endorsement by Gov. Jerry Brown, which came even as he and the Clintons have long had a rocky relationship. It was Brown who stayed around the longest in the 1992 primary election against Bill Clinton, who claimed the Democratic presidential nomination in California.
Hillary Clinton remains the clear Democratic frontrunner, only 59 delegates short of the 2,382 needed to win the nomination after posting a win Saturday in the Virgin Islands caucuses.
In fact, Fresno State political science professor Jeff Cummins says she has “unofficially captured the nomination,” even before Tuesday. Sanders is still the long shot, but as Bill Clinton said in his own recent Fresno visit, his wife needs to go into the party’s national convention this summer in Philadelphia “with the wind at her back.”
Instead, she may head to the City of Brotherly Love a bloodied candidate.
A loss in California will make that even more likely, and could increase the possibility of the entire Democratic Party limping into its national convention bitter and divided.
Sanders, for his part, shows no signs of giving up, vowing to take his bid for the nomination to the convention. He pledged Saturday to make it a “contested convention.”
At stake Tuesday in California are 546 Democratic Party delegates – 475 pledged, the rest superdelegates. Of the 475 pledged delegates, two-thirds are awarded proportionally by congressional district, and the number of delegates up for grabs per district varies from four to nine. The remaining 158 go to the statewide primary election winner.
Clinton could claim the title of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in California or any of the five other states that also have their primaries Tuesday – Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico. There are 694 pledged delegates on the line Tuesday, and an additional 112 superdelegates in the six states that essentially close out the primary election season. After the six states Tuesday, only the June 14 Washington, D.C., primary remains.
Realistically, Clinton could get very close Sunday, or possibly even claim the nomination, when Puerto Rico holds its primary. In total, the island has 60 delegates and seven superdelegates up for grabs.
Still, there is the question of momentum.
A few months ago, Democratic Party leaders thought California and its treasure trove of delegates would be Clinton’s coronation, not a pitched battle. Instead, polls show the party’s two contenders dead even.
With that in mind, Clinton came to Edison High’s gym not so much on a quest to win the nomination, but to regain the wind at her back. Her 23-minute stay on the dais was preceded by introductions from Fresno Rep. Jim Costa and comments from retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Armando Rodriguez.
Fresno was the final stop on a day of campaigning that took her first to Sylmar for an immigration discussion, then to a campaign rally in Oxnard and finally to Santa Barbara for a “conversation on women and families.”
On Sunday, Clinton will talk with community leaders in Vallejo before holding a campaign rally later in the day in Sacramento.
The Clinton campaign said her speeches would tell people why she is the best candidate in four key areas – raising incomes for Californians, lowering health care costs, improving education and breaking barriers that hold many Americans back.
In her Fresno speech, Clinton sounded many themes common to Democratic candidates: equal pay for women, early childhood education, clean energy, abortion rights, support of education and marriage equality. She talked about not only growing the economy, but making it fair. She will work to “improve the Affordable Care Act,” also known as Obamacare.
“I have no doubt that America’s best years are ahead of us,” she said.