OAKLAND, Calif. - President Joe Biden joined striking autoworkers on the picket line in Michigan, a first for a modern president. Biden told United Auto Workers through a bullhorn, "Unions built the middle class, that’s a fact. Let’s keep going, you deserve what you’ve earned."
President Biden’s show of support precedes a planned visit with autoworkers from GOP frontrunner former President Donald Trump on Wednesday. "The labor vote is an important constituency for Democrats," said Melinda Jackson, political science professor at San Jose State. "But it also fits I think pretty authentically with who Joe Biden is."
Mr. Trump panned Biden’s visit, calling it "nothing more than a PR stunt." The president then took Air Force One to the Bay Area for a quick trip, dominated by big-ticket fundraisers. "The San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, is one of the most progressive areas in the country," said Jackson. "We have a lot deep-pocketed donors here."
Presidential hopefuls from both parties have crisscrossed the state, looking for financial backing for their campaigns. This week, Republican candidates sharpen their focus on California. Most will participate in the second Republican primary debate in Simi Valley, Trump opted out again.
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"By in large, this is Donald Trump’s party, it has been for 8 years," said Mike Madrid, GOP strategist and co-founder of the never-Trump ‘Lincoln Project.’ "Republicans are rallying, not just in California, though it’s happening here too, it’s happening everywhere in the country."
A Berkeley IGS poll released earlier this month, showed 55% of Republican voters would pick Mr. Trump in the primary. That could lead to a clean sweep, the party recently changed its rules to allow a candidate to allow a candidate with more than 50% of the vote to take all 169 delegates.
While he’s not participating in the debate, Trump will speak at the California GOP convention in Anaheim on Friday. "These GOP conventions are where his people are," said Madrid. "I’d say 85% of these delegates are with him, it’s basically going to be like a Trump rally in Southern California."
While the former president locks up support in his party, polls show voters continue to be uneasy about a Biden-Trump rematch. An NBC poll shows voters are concerned about Biden’s age and mental fitness while also worried about Trump’s legal issues. With independent voters in mind, Madrid says Biden may have the edge. "They’re genuinely looking for the lesser of two evils, and it’s a much higher burden to change candidate midstream and that benefits the incumbent," said Madrid. "It’s Joe Biden’s race to lose."
The first Republican primary votes will be held on January 15 at the Iowa caucuses.