Senator Hillary Clinton discusses her campaign theme song.
As the top candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards come west this week, Clinton gets a boost for her frontrunning Democratic presidential campaign today from LA’s mayor. NWN learned yesterday morning that the touted “major announcement” this afternoon at UCLA is the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
It’s not a big surprise, in that Villaraigosa’s close ally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, is national co-chairman for Clinton and his former campaign manager, Ace Smith, is Clinton’s California director. Both were previously revealed here.
Before Clinton comes to California today, she campaigns in Nevada, meeting with the culinary workers in Las Vegas before holding a noon town hall meeting in North Las Vegas. Her town hall in Reno a few weeks ago drew a whopping 3500 people. Clinton leads in the polls in Nevada, the second-in-the-nation contest in the Democratic presidential race, where she was just endorsed by former Governor Bob Miller, the last Democrat to hold the office and a strong supporter of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Silicon Valley, to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. She’ll do some California fundraising on both days.
John Edwards will also be here for fundraising. He actually has a $15 per person fundraiser on Thursday in San Jose, a way for the grassroots to get some personal access to him.
Barack Obama will be in California over the weekend for fundraising, and probably something else to be announced. Obama’s strong fundraising, which surpassed that of Clinton during the first quarter, is continuing apace.
The Villaraigosa endorsement of Hillary Clinton came after some big-time wooing on the part of the former first couple, which is ever mindful of the strong challenge being mounted by Obama. Hillary Clinton met at length with the mayor in LA. The two appeared together earlier in the year to promote an LA clean-up drive. And Bill Clinton had dinner with him in New York earlier this month when the LA mayor attended the Clinton Foundation’s climate change summit for major cities around the world.
While Villaraigosa is a major Latino political star in America, his record as an endorser is mixed. He’s also had a rougher time of it lately as mayor, with a number of things going wrong. As speaker of the California Assembly, he backed super-rich businessman Al Checchi for governor in 1998. He lost the race for the Democratic nomination in a landslide to Gray Davis.
In 2004, Villaraigosa was a national co-chairman of John Kerry’s presidential campaign, gaining valuable experience and connections. Last year, he endorsed movie director Rob Reiner’s tax-the-rich for universal preschool initiative. It lost in the California primary election, which was dominated by Democrats.
Close to home, Villaraigosa’s candidates this year for the sprawling LA Unified school board triumphed. But it took millions of dollars of spending and voters did not exactly flock to the polls in answer to the mayor’s call. The turnout in the first round of voting was an astonishingly meager 9%; in the run-off just 6%.
Endorsements have historically had limited utility in California Democratic presidential primaries, in which insurgents have at least as good a track record as do candidates of the party establishment, which Clinton is clearly becoming here. Clinton is putting together a strong conventional campaign here, staffing up early as I’ve reported and is likely to run a strong campaign geared to constituency groups with a major vote by mail operation.
While Iowa and Nevada wait to hold their presidential caucuses in mid-January, many Californians will already be voting by mail. The Clinton campaign wants to bank those votes early, and a figure like Villaraigosa, with strong appeal to Latinos and to LA area voters, may be very helpful in that regard.
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