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Clinton, Sanders in Fight for Calif.   05/05 06:11

   Hillary Clinton is looking confidently ahead to the general election, but 
taking nothing for granted as California's mega-primary approaches, reaching 
out to Hispanic and black voters in the hope of waging a final knockout against 
rival Bernie Sanders.

   LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Hillary Clinton is looking confidently ahead to the 
general election, but taking nothing for granted as California's mega-primary 
approaches, reaching out to Hispanic and black voters in the hope of waging a 
final knockout against rival Bernie Sanders.

   Clinton's visit to the Golden State Thursday coincides with Cinco de Mayo, 
the annual celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. She plans to rally 
supporters in the gymnasium of a community college that serves heavily Hispanic 
cities on the edge of Los Angeles.

   The event will carry symbolic value. The venue, East Los Angeles College, 
isn't far from another local school where Clinton kicked off her successful 
2008 presidential primary run in California, when she delivered a setback to 
then-Sen. Barack Obama on his way to claiming the White House.

   In that race, the former first lady notched nearly 55 percent of the vote in 
heavily Democratic Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people and an 
important battleground in any statewide campaign.

   As in past primaries, Clinton is expected to do well in the June 7 primary 
with older Democrats, Hispanics and black voters, while Sanders could perform 
better with younger voters and independents, who are allowed to vote in the 
state's Democratic primary.

   "The Sanders folks feel that they have to do better with the minority 
communities, especially Latinos," said Mitchell Schwartz, who ran Obama's 2008 
campaign in the state and supports the Vermont senator.

   For Clinton's campaign, "they don't want to go into the (national) 
convention having lost the biggest state in the country," Schwartz added. "They 
are going to pull out all the stops here to win."

   Relying on many of the same advisers who laid the groundwork for her 2008 
win, Clinton is looking to build on that strategy, targeting key demographics 
in the diverse region. Hispanics alone make up about half the population in Los 
Angeles County.

   Clinton will begin her day Thursday meeting privately with politically 
influential black pastors in Los Angeles, then attend a fundraiser hosted by 
Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, a Mexican immigrant, before the 
college rally.

   Until recently, the California primary had looked like the make-or-break 
contest for candidates on both sides of the aisle. But billionaire businessman 
Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee, while Sanders looks to 
California as his last glimmer of hope in stopping Clinton, who has thus far 
won 92 percent of the delegates needed to claim the nomination.

   But Clinton can't be too confident going in to the country's final primary, 
with statewide voter surveys pointing to a tight race between the two Democrats.

   An independent Field Poll released last month found Clinton with a 6-point 
lead over Sanders, with 12 percent of voters still undecided.

   Highlighting the stakes, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill 
Clinton, will each be making appearances in the Los Angeles area this week. The 
former first lady heads to Oakland on Friday.

   Clinton's appearance at the college also represents a bid to lift her appeal 
with younger voters, who have strongly rallied behind Sanders' insurgent 
campaign. The Vermont senator's rallies in California have been filled to 
capacity with 20- and 30-somethings; a Clinton rally last month at another 
college in Los Angeles was noticeably thin on student-attendees, though it was 
held on a Saturday.

   Driving up turnout will be a key issue for both candidates; likely voters in 
California tend to be older, white, college-educated and homeowners, surveys 
show. Hispanics, by comparison, tend to vote in proportions well below their 
share of the population, in part because many are too young to vote, not 
registered or not citizens.

   Michael Ceraso, Sanders' state director, said campaign volunteers will make 
1 million door knocks by primary day, as part of the campaign's effort to scout 
up supporters and to register new voters.

   The California election is actually about a month long.

   Vote-by-mail ballots go out next week and could account for more than half 
of the total number of votes cast. That means that many voters will be making 
decisions weeks before June 7.

   In California, 475 Democratic delegates will be divvied up in the election, 
some based on the outcome in each congressional district, others in proportion 
to the statewide tally. That will make it difficult for either candidate to win 
a commanding victory.

   California has long been favorable terrain for the Clintons. Along with her 
2008 win, Bill Clinton locked in the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination in 
the state, which he carried in his two presidential contests. The familiarity 
of the Clinton name could be an asset.

   Lia Evans, 19, a student from Torrance and registered Democrat, was among 
the crowd at a Clinton rally at Los Angeles Southwest College last month.

   While she liked what she heard from both candidates, she was more 
comfortable with Clinton.

   As for Sanders, "I still don't know that much about him," she said.


(KA)

 
 
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