Of the top four candidates for the Democratic nomination former Sen. John Edwards is the only candidate who does not have any paid staff or campaign offices in the nation’s largest state. The campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson all have devoted resources on the ground in California including offices and paid staffers.
Delegate rich California, with a population of 38 million people, will deliver a mega amount of delegates on February 5, 2008. In the latest SUSA poll Sen. Hillary Clinton has a 21 point lead in California over Sen. Barack Obama with Edwards finishing third with 15%.
“The Edwards insurgent road map is clear: convert progressive positions into labor endorsements, win Iowa, ride a big momentum wave in terms of press coverage and online money and then slingshot out to the bigger states” like California, said Democratic consultant Chris Lehane, a veteran of the Clinton White House who worked for Al Gore in 2000 and for 2004 presidential candidates John Kerry and Wesley Clark.
Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who’s worked on presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton, Dick Gephardt and Ted Kennedy, said if Edwards stumbles in Iowa “he won’t have a California campaign.”
However, Carrick said even while concentrating on the earlier states Edwards must establish a campaign in California if he is to take advantage of early momentum.
“If you don’t have any preparation in California … it makes it all the harder to be competitive here if you do get here,” he said.
Carrick recalled that in 1988 Gephardt, the former Missouri senator, won Iowa and finished second in the New Hampshire primary, but lacking money he didn’t have the organization in other states to be competitive and fell out of the race.
Edwards and Kerry carried California by double-digits in 2004, but surveys this year show the former senator trailing Clinton and Obama.
With Edwards’ fundraising lagging millions behind Obama and Clinton he must pick his spots, said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
“You cannot campaign in California without spending tens of millions of dollars,” Cain said. “He’s got to think long and hard before he diverts money to California.”