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Essential Politics: Just getting started, Bernie Sanders volunteers organizing May Day rally in L.A.

I’m Christina Bellantoni, welcoming you to Monday with today's Essential Politics. Here we go!

Donald Trump "blocked out the sun."

That quote came from an aide to Jeb Bush, disappointed as the former Florida governor ended his candidacy Saturday night in South Carolina. But it really could have come from anyone, as the winnowed field attempts to topple the clear GOP front-runner. (For what it’s worth, every Republican who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has gone on to be the nominee.)

Trump’s victory and Bush’s dramatic tumble from sure-thing to also-ran illustrate just how strange this campaign season has been. The pressure is on for Sen. Marco Rubio, who eked out a second-place finish by just about 1,000 votes more than Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cathleen Decker sees the road ahead as having no middle ground thanks to both parties pulling to the left and right, while Michael Finnegan breaks down what Trump, Rubio and Cruz are betting on to win in Nevada

CLINTON GETS TO GIVE HER FIRST REAL VICTORY SPEECH

After defeating Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada by five and a half points, thanks in part to strong support from women, Hillary Clinton surely was breathing a sigh of relief.

But as Evan Halper reports, Clinton isn’t out of the woods yet. Her campaign faces a problem it never thought it would: money. "There are only so many people in Hollywood with $2,700 to give. Eventually you burn through them," one source told him.

That’s perhaps one reason the former secretary of State struck a tone of brotherhood and pointedly said she and Sanders agree on many things in her fundraising ask Saturday.

And it’s definitely why she spent Sunday attending fundraisers in the Bay Area and will be in Los Angeles today doing the same thing. Clinton will attend a Monday evening "conversation with Hillary" hosted by Mike Roberts and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and co-hosted by Jonathan Beutler, Yih-Gwo Ching, Simon Pang and Yee Phong Thian.

JUST GETTING STARTED

Sanders made clear he views the contest as a long game, and his team is seeking volunteers to make calls for Super Tuesday.

But consider another data point that goes far beyond the contests in March. Team Sanders already is organizing a rally in Los Angeles for May Day — which honors manual labor workers and has been a major marker for advocates of immigration reform. The campaign doesn’t say the candidate will attend, but the forward thinking — and the continued squabble over who won Latino voters in Nevada — shows Sanders is not ceding this vote to Clinton.

A volunteer’s page for the downtown Los Angeles "May Day March and Rally" calls for a $15 minimum wage and collective bargaining rights, and says the group stands with Sanders in fighting income inequality.

THE ROAD AHEAD

We are tracking what’s next for the Republicans and the Democrats, and covering this week’s town halls, on Trail Guide. Our reporters on the ground will keep it up all week. Make sure to follow @latimespolitics so you don’t miss a moment.

If you’re let down that two more contests are ticked off the calendar, don’t fret! There’s another caucus tomorrow as Nevada Republicans assemble to choose their preferred candidates. (Don’t miss Mark Z. Barabak’s explainer on why polls are unreliable in the Silver State.) And Democrats will vote in South Carolina on Saturday.

DOING THEIR CIVIC DUTY … IN THE STATE NEXT DOOR

Christine Mai-Duc spent the weekend with Californians who took time off work and ponied up the gas money to hit the streets for the presidential campaign — in Nevada.

She spent time with Sanders and Clinton loyalists, and found them both fitting into and defying stereotypes. But each made clear they have deep emotional ties to this contest. 

Read the story.

Our team was all over the caravans headed to the Silver State, tracking them on Snapchat (follow latimespolitics) and showcasing what it’s like for a congressman from L.A. to go door-to-door in a place where he’s not recognized.

THE POLITICS OF POT

When it comes to legalizing marijuana, it’s starting to look as if no one can compete with Sean Parker’s piles of cash.

Some of the advocates behind more than a dozen competing measures are taking the "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em" attitude, while others are considering all-out pot warfare against the former Facebook executive and Napster founder. Phil Willon details how in this case, it’s the green that counts.

TIME TO NEGOTIATE?

Melanie Mason got the goods on Assembly Republicans’ wish list for the healthcare-plans tax Gov. Jerry Brown stuck in his annual budget. With several things on the list of demands already in the works and some prominent tax watchdog organizations staying neutral, it sounds as though the GOP is getting ready to deal.

And George Skelton takes stock of a tax increase proposal that not even the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. is fighting. 

You can follow what’s happening in Sacramento on our Essential Politics news feed.

CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS GATHERING FRIDAY

Vice President Joe Biden will headline the California Democratic Party convention at the end of the week. State party activists also will hear from outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer and agree on a platform, not to mention be confronted with the Senate contest to replace Boxer between Rep. Loretta Sanchez and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.

That will get most of the attention, but as Javier Panzar outlines, some important work will be happening behind the scenes as party activists gather to choose their favorite candidates in endorsement caucuses for congressional races up and down the state. The nod at this level is a minor but important establishment boost in races where every vote matters in the June 7 top-two primary.

Most candidates won their endorsements at even smaller, local gatherings last month, but five contests in competitive territory remain open after the local activists bucked expectations.

Of those, three members of Congress are in the uncomfortable position of walking into the convention without something they might have expected to be perfunctory: full backing from Democrats back home. All three are taking this seriously — and will appear in person to make their case.

GOING AFTER GAVIN

Gun rights groups vowed to fight Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed gun-control initiative, and they are starting to make good on that promise. The initial criticism, Willon reports, is suggesting Newsom was exploiting the attacks in San Bernardino to help his gubernatorial campaign.

LEADERS NEUTRAL — FOR NOW

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi isn’t taking sides in the Democratic presidential contest. Appearing in Southern California last week, Pelosi praised Clinton as the most experienced but lauded Sanders for attracting young people to politics.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid did not endorse before Nevada’s caucuses but said Saturday he will be picking someone in the coming weeks from Washington.

PODCAST: TRAIN TROUBLES?

Last week's news of a major change in plans for California's bullet train could be one of the most important developments for the project in years.

Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers' reporter roundtable takes a closer look in this week's episode of the California Politics Podcast. They also discuss the frenzy over Harris being mentioned as a possible nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court and handicap the likely propositions for November's statewide ballot.

You can subscribe to the free podcast here.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Kurtis Lee crafted this handy guide to all the people Trump has insulted.

-- Chelsea Clinton tells Kate Linthicum she can’t understand why anyone would think her mother is cold or unfeeling.

-- Steve Lopez writes about a presidential race "so awful you can't look away," and Mary McNamara assesses Trump and Clinton ripping up Hollywood's presidential script.

-- Patrick McGreevy gets at an issue bubbling in Sacramento, writing that as lawmakers consider licensing daily fantasy sports websites in California, compulsive bettors and those who treat them are warning that a new generation of problem gamblers is being created in the state.

-- McGreevy also reports that investigative files involving police shootings and sustained misconduct by officers would be made public under legislation proposed to lift the veil of secrecy and restore public confidence in law enforcement.

-- An L.A. City Councilman faces a recall effort.

-- Get excited. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is coming up.

LOGISTICS

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