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Essential Politics: This is what it looks like when the campaign comes to California

Essential Politics: This is what it looks like when the campaign comes to California
(LAT)

I'm Christina Bellantoni. Let's get started.

It was supposed to be a snoozer of a state party convention. Then the presidential race came to California. And the events in Burlingame Friday through Sunday gave a little taste of what the next five weeks could be like on the Republican side.

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It started Friday when Donald Trump attracted angry protesters who forced him to traipse through a field to get into the convention site, then dismissed them during his brief speech to California Republican activists. He declared the race was close to over.

"I think it's going to come to an end very soon," Trump said. "And really, I'm speaking to the people in this room, because there has to be unity in our party."

Sen. Ted Cruz went after Trump for donating to Democrats, and his new running mate Carly Fiorina offered a feisty stump speech to delegates Saturday night, taking sharp jabs at Trump and those who oppose Cruz.

She pointedly said she would rather have a friend like Cruz backer Utah Sen. Mike Lee than former House Speaker John Boehner, who compared the senator to "Lucifer in the flesh."

You can find every minute of our convention coverage on our Essential Politics news feed, from intense video of the first protesters crashing the barricades to Ralph Reed's promise the party's divisions would heal.

In her Sunday column, Cathleen Decker writes that the weekend seemed to lean toward Trump's inevitability; no giant groundswell rose on behalf of Cruz, despite his red-meat speech that touched on the environment, immigration and the 2nd Amendment, or for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's more laid-back approach.

The convention came after Thursday night's raucous Trump rally in Costa Mesa. We covered every push and shove here.

Trump's focus on immigration is one reason for the backlash that has given rise to newly energized Latino activists, but also risks collateral damage to a California state party that has worked to distance itself from the immigration wars of two decades ago, Decker writes.

His opponents clashed in the streets with police in an eerie reminder of the mass protests in 1994 that greeted the campaign surrounding Proposition 187, the measure to bar state services for immigrants here without papers, she writes. Although the proposition passed, the backlash toward those who supported it has been a leading cause of a precipitous decline in the number of Republicans registered in California.

The guy synonymous with Prop 187 — Pete Wilsonendorsed Cruz this weekend.

Kasich suggested his rivals are scaring Hispanics and continued to play the nice-guy routine as he proclaimed his love for "the Big Sur."

SO CAN TRUMP BE STOPPED?

As the overt campaigning was happening in California, a more complicated math game was happening behind the scenes in a suburb of Phoenix. Melanie Mason takes you inside, detailing how Cruz was able to win 35 of 55 Arizona delegates, despite Trump's 22-point win in the state in March.

They are bound to the billionaire businessman on the first ballot at the convention, but all bets are off if it gets to a second ballot.

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A super PAC backing Kasich warned donors that they have but two choices: fund its effort in California or watch Trump win the nomination in the state's primary. "We have five weeks to stop Trump. If there was ever an Alamo in presidential politics, this is it," says a letter sent to donors by the New Day for America Super PAC, Mehta reports.

Mehta also learned that Our Principles PAC, which spent $16 million on anti-Trump efforts in a handful of states, including Iowa, Florida and Wisconsin, is joining forces with Victory California, a group founded by three veteran GOP operatives in Sacramento.

WHERE DOES SANDERS MOVEMENT GO FROM HERE?

An eclectic mix of labor loyalists, gay rights advocates, antiwar protesters and political neophytes may never have united if it weren't for Sen. Bernie Sanders. As the prospect of the democratic socialist they adore winning the White House rapidly fades, Sanders supporters are scrambling to keep the movement he has built from fading like earlier liberal efforts have, Joseph Tanfani and Evan Halper report.

BILL CLINTON RETURNS TO GOLDEN STATE

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The former president is campaigning for his wife Wednesday in San Diego and Los Angeles.

He'll also headline a $1,000-per-person Friday evening fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of Laura and Sanford Michelman, co-chaired by Teresa and Sean Burton.

For $10,000, a co-host can attend a reception with Clinton.

PRESIDENT BIDS FAREWELL TO ANNUAL DINNER

President Obama seemed to relish his eighth, and final, address to the White House Correspondents' Assn. at its annual dinner Saturday night, taking digs at himself, potential replacements in the Oval Office and even Britain's little Prince George, in addition to the partisan rancor that has pervaded his time in Washington.

When he finished, he literally dropped the mic. Sarah Wire rounded up the best lines from the night.

The room of 2,700 journalists, politicians and celebrities seemed overall pleased with the president's performance, even as many panned comedian Larry Wilmore for his scathing routine that left no one unharmed.

Al Sharpton told Stephen Battaglio he was not amused by Wilmore's use of the N-word, and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright sat stonefaced through the "Nightly Show" host's routine.

PODCAST: SLEEPER SENATE RACE

Last week's first debate in the race for California's open U.S. Senate seat was also the first time many voters may have heard about the contest in weeks. Or longer.

On this week's California Politics Podcast, John Myers leads a discussion about the potential outcomes in this sleepiest of statewide elections.

In another testament to the lack of interest in the race, just a handful of convention attendees bothered to listen to the GOP Senate candidates Sunday afternoon, Phil Willon reports.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

-- George Skelton writes in his Monday column that Sanders may say the richest 1% should pay their fair share, but no one can argue they aren't already in California, at least in state taxes. In fact, they're forking over more than their fair share to Gov. Jerry Brown's regime, he writes.

-- Sanders' fundraising dropped in April.

-- Steve Lopez explains why Trump and California are a great match, the greatest match.

-- The latest in our Trump Nation series takes readers through Oregon.

-- ICYMI, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he has collected 600,000 signatures of California voters, more than enough to qualify a gun control initiative for the November ballot. "We're there," Newsom told Patrick McGreevy.

-- Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin made her choice in the presidential race.

-- Meet one congressional candidate who showed up at the convention this weekend.

-- What do you think of Trump? Readers can weigh in with our quick survey.

LOGISTICS

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