I'm Christina Bellantoni, and things are getting real in California. Today's Essential Politics begins with a question we've been pondering lately.
Which voters are going to show up on Tuesday?
A host of fresh polling suggests a neck-and-neck race between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The Vermont senator is strongest among the voters who are not registered Democrats. The ones Democrats allow to participate in the presidential primary.
We'll publish a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey Thursday afternoon and we'll aim to provide an answer, but as the cliché goes, the only poll that really matters is the one taken on election day. And in this case, it's actually true.
Team Clinton is taking California seriously to try and stave off a Sanders win, which could be a demoralizing loss that comes just after she clinches the delegates needed to become the nominee.
The vigor with which the Clinton campaign is now approaching California comes as an abrupt shift, Evan Halper reports.
A defeat in California would be a significant setback for Clinton, exposing anew the weaknesses she has sought to move past. And a Sanders victory would further embolden his supporters to demand she embrace more of his agenda, Halper writes.
Clinton will go after Donald Trump as unqualified to be president during a foreign policy speech Thursday in San Diego and then she and former President Bill Clinton engage in 30 campaign events over the next several days.
Sanders, who campaigned not far from Trump on Wednesday night but kept mentions of his rival to a minimum, continues his rapid-fire schedule of rallies.
TRUMP IN SACRAMENTO
Campaigning at a 2,500-person capacity airport hangar at a rally he said boasted 11,000 people, Trump suggested on Wednesday that he intended to wage a summer and fall campaign against both the candidate and the former president.
"These are crooked people," Trump said of Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Myers reports. "They've been crooked from the beginning."
The Republican's mention of Gov. Jerry Brown evoked boos from the crowd.
VOTER REGISTRATION LAWSUIT DENIED
"The citizens of California are smart enough to know what their rights are," a federal judge said Wednesday when rejecting a lawsuit seeking to reopen voter registration in California ahead of next week's presidential primary.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup told a group led by Sanders backers that the rights of the state's unaffiliated voters have not been harmed. The claim was that the requirement "decline to state" voters ask for a Democratic presidential ballot is confusing, but Alsup also denied the request that volunteers at polling places be required to tell voters about the unusual rules.
Recent polls show that nearly a third of California voters are undecided in the U.S. Senate race, and apparently they aren't the only ones. Some of the state's most generous and loyal political donors to Democrats have been sitting out the race so far — including a number of big-name Californians who've written checks for Brown, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Phil Willon and Malloy Moore found huge disparities between contributors to Boxer's 2010 race and the donors giving in this contest.
One campaign consultant believes that many donors may be reluctant because they don't want to choose between the two Democrats — Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez — who are the favorites to advance to the November general election.
Sanders has announced his support for the legalization of pot, Trump sides with agriculture in the drought war, and Clinton won't debate Sanders in California as promised. As Tuesday's primary approaches, the presidential candidates seem to be willing to try anything to get ahead in the Golden State, George Skelton writes in his Thursday column.
LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO WILL FEEL THE IMPACT OF THE GOVERNOR'S HOUSING PLAN
For decades, rules in Los Angeles and San Francisco have given residents there substantial say over new housing development. But as Liam Dillon reports, Brown's new affordable housing plan would wipe away the most stringent of rules in those cities and others like them in an effort to spur growth.
TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT: JOIN US FOR POLITICS, THE PRIMARY AND PILSNER
Who will win the primary? What role does California play, and what's the most important race you're not paying attention to? Join me and other journalists from our political team for an informal chat about the primary and the state of the general election race against Trump.
Hope to see you tonight at the Redwood in downtown Los Angeles. RSVP here.
— The same day as a fatal shooting at UCLA , the state Assembly approved a package of gun control bills including an expansion of the state's gun restraining order law allowing courts to take firearms away from people judged to be a danger to themselves or others.
— Court documents unsealed this week in two class-action lawsuits against Trump University portray the program as a "fraudulent scheme" that employed high-pressure sales tactics — as well as a place where some participants got "exceptional" advice about profiting from real estate.
— Citing the improved economy and healthy state budget, a state panel approved 4% pay raises for the governor, legislators and other elected state officials. California legislators already receive the highest base salary of any state legislators in the nation, but the action by the Citizens Compensation Commission boosts legislators' salaries from $100,111 to $104,115.
— Amid outrage over the number of out-of-state students taking spots in the University of California system, the Assembly approved a 10% cap on nonresident enrollment phased in over the next six years.
— State senators added a new wrinkle to the intensifying affordable housing debate at the Capitol by passing a $3-billion housing bond on Wednesday. The bond still needs two-thirds approval in the Assembly and Brown's signature before it would appear on the November ballot.
— The Assembly voted down a measure that would have boosted public access to police body camera footage. Assuming lawmakers don't change their minds by Friday's deadline, the decision would be the second measure in as many weeks that would have increased transparency of law enforcement records to fail.
— This is what's on Trump's reading list.
— California's U.S. senators are betting alcohol that the Golden State Warriors are going to win the 2016 NBA Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boxer wagered beer from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Leandro against beer from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein is betting a case of California Chardonnay against whiskey put up by Sen. Rob Portman.
— The country's only lesbian political action committee, LPAC, has endorsed Harris for U.S. Senate.
— What do you think of Trump? Readers can weigh in with our quick survey.