With California playing a meaningful role in the presidential race for the first time in decades, all three major Democratic candidates hit the campaign trail here Thursday, with talk of pocketbook issues in the face of a weakening economy.
As the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 300 points, Hillary Rodham Clinton laid out a plan to help struggling communities, Barack Obama spoke of revitalizing the economy and John Edwards condemned cuts to the California budget.
All three were gambling that they could take a break from campaigning in Nevada, which holds its caucuses Saturday, to raise money, talk to voters and launch ads in preparation for the Feb. 5 primary here.
In addition, Clinton and Obama reached out to their chief rivals' base of support, with the New York senator wooing African Americans in Compton and the senator from Illinois courting female voters in San Francisco's Mission District.
Clinton told a receptive audience at the Citizens of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Compton that she would take steps to retrain workers for jobs developing new energy sources. She also advocated a 90-day freeze on housing foreclosures, counseling for people facing foreclosure and an expansion of unemployment insurance.
"In California alone, 95,000 homes are in foreclosure. Many families are struggling, and many of those whose American dreams are being lost are the hardest-working people in California," she said.
Although she did not mention Obama by name, she took a veiled swipe at the man she charges is better at talk than action: "As the scripture reminds us, we cannot be just hearers of the word, we must be doers."
Clinton launched her first California ad on Thursday, a 30-second television spot -- set to air in several cities -- that promises to "bring your voice" to the White House.
Obama surrounded himself with a panel of single mothers at the Women's Building in San Francisco, where he commiserated about how hard it is to balance work and family and make ends meet "for so many Americans, but particularly for working women in this country."
He asked the four women -- one holding her 6-week-old son -- if they were covered for healthcare and whether their children's fathers paid child support. He inquired about mortgage payments and child care.
He confessed: "Although I like to think about myself as an enlightened male, the fact of the matter is that . . . my wife, Michelle, had to bear the burden, for example, of the baby-sitter getting sick."
And he pushed an economic plan with details meant to appeal to women: better tax credits for child and dependent care, tax breaks for working families and low-income seniors and an expanded family and medical leave act.
Speaking to reporters after the economic round table, Obama said that "it's absolutely critical for us to do something short-term" to stimulate the economy, even though "we don't know if we've fallen into the technical definition of a recession."
Obama has proposed a tax rebate of $35 billion. Additional help, he said, would come if economic indicators such as unemployment continue to drop.
"Families have been struggling for a long time, even prior to the sub-prime lending crisis," Obama said. "We know the economy has worsened. The most important step is a short-term stimulus that just gets money into the pockets of Americans, so you don't see consumer spending just drastically drop."
Edwards kicked off a coast-to-coast campaign swing with a rally on the sunny rooftop parking lot of a Service Employees International Union office in downtown Los Angeles, where he took jabs at corporate interests in front of enthusiastic union members.
"The very richest Americans are getting richer, the biggest corporations in America are getting wealthier," Edwards told the crowd of roughly 1,000 supporters at the afternoon event. "What's happening to working people?"
The crowd booed when the former North Carolina senator talked about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts, which he strongly derided.
Edwards was joined on stage by the Sarkisyan family of Northridge, whose daughter died last month of complications from leukemia after their insurance company delayed approval of a liver transplant.
After decrying insurance companies, he focused in on fixing the mortgage lending crisis.
"We need a president of the United States that will stand up for workers, homeowners -- not the massive lending industry," he said, before heading back to Nevada, where all three candidates plan to campaign today.
La Ganga reported from San Francisco, Nicholas from Compton and Rosenblatt from Los Angeles.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times