Former Vice President Joe Biden received an endorsement from California on Thursday, with the potential to both boost and damage his standing in the delegate-rich Super Tuesday state.
Biden, whom recent polls show holding a narrow lead over his fellow 2020 Democrats in the state, received the backing of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ahead of a visit to southern California on Thursday.
Garcetti said in a statement:
Democrats are blessed to have such an extraordinary field of candidates, but I will never forget what Joe Biden has done for my city and our nation. We need Joe Biden to bring our nation and world together during these most divided and dangerous times.
The mayor, who contemplated his own presidential run last year before ultimately passing, is slated to become national co-chair of Biden’s campaign. He joins several other high-profile California Democrats, including the state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, in backing the former vice president ahead of what is expected to be a heated primary.
Not only will the race be competitive and costly, given the state’s population and expensive media markets, but it is also likely to trigger severe divisions between an already fractured Democrat base. Since the 2016 presidential election, establishment and progressives Democrats have been waging an internal battle for direction of the state.
The tension was on display during Feinstein’s reelection in 2018, in which the octogenarian moderate was stringently opposed by state senator Kevin de Leon, a progressive in the mold of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In that race, de Leon not only took Feinstein to task for not supporting universal healthcare and other liberal measures, but also accused the senator of being insufficiently opposed to President Donald Trump.
Although Feinstein went on to defeat de Leon, the fissures of that race and the growing ideological gap between the establishment and progressive Democrats has spilled over into the 2020 primary campaign. Progressives, in particular, seem to be hoping they can deliver California, with its 416 delegates—the most offered by any state on Super Tuesday—to a candidate like Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Even though the state’s delegates will be dolled out proportionally based on the primary results, California could be enough to tip the nomination in any candidate’s favor. Such a likelihood is made all the more realistic if multiple candidates remain in the race after the early primary contest.
Biden, for his part, seems to have sensed as much and has made a concerted effort to shore up his standing in California after hometown favorite Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) dropped out last year. Garcetti, who has a foot in both the progressive and establishment camps, will likely play a role in courting primary voters to back the former vice president.
It is unclear, though, if Garcetti’s failures to tackle Los Angeles’s homeless crisis, which has generated national media attention, will prove a detriment to Biden’s campaign. Criticism of the mayor’s response to his city’s rapidly expanding homeless encampments has been the one thing that has brought both California’s progressive and establishment Democrats together.
As if sensing the volatility of the issue, Garcetti on Thursday claimed one of the reasons he was backing Biden was because the former vice president would be a “true partner in solving the national homelessness crisis.”