I'm Christina Bellantoni, and this is Essential Politics kicking off the week.
Six months from today, Americans will have a president-elect.
As Donald Trump shifts to general election mode, the conversation will now focus on maps instead of delegate counts. First, the basics: Democrats start out the fall contest with a considerable advantage on the path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
Raw numbers based on the last six presidential elections find Democrats likely to capture 253 Electoral College votes, and Republicans likely to win 191.
Mark Z. Barabak and David Lauter walk through all the scenarios and demographic data points that will guide the next six months.
Trump has already shifted some of his positions, and probably not for the last time this election season.
As Christi Parsons and Michael Memoli write, President Obama seems to be suffering from a new affliction. He feels misunderstood. On his legacy-burnishing media tour, he has mourned the American public's lack of awareness of his big wins in foreign and economic policy and bemoaned his inability to better communicate those achievements in a fractured media environment.
Hillary Clinton has been keeping an aggressive campaign schedule and was in the Bay Area last week. Sen. Bernie Sanders will be in Sacramento today.
As the Democratic contest continues to push ahead toward California's June 7 primary, Seema Mehta dives into the Sanders-backing California Nurses Assn., which has proved adept at putting better-funded rivals on the defense.
But some of the campaigning is happening behind the scenes. Evan Halper tackles the new frontier in digital campaigning, one that seems to have been inspired by some of the Internet's worst instincts. Meet the multimillion-dollar super PAC that trolls Hillary Clinton haters.
MOTOR VOTER WOES
Voting rights activists have long complained that the voter registration process at the DMV is cumbersome and violates federal law, and last year some of them threatened to sue.
So last month, the agency rolled out what it says is a big improvement to how it registers citizens to vote, and a major step on the way to full implementation of the state's new motor voter law. You can now register to vote at the same time you renew your driver's license at a DMV office — without having to fill out a separate form. But as Christine Mai-Duc reports, it's a little more complicated than that.
If voters don't also stop to answer questions at a computer terminal in another room, they'll be registered as having no party preference. And that, voter advocates say, could keep thousands of people from voting in the upcoming presidential primary.
RIDESHARING COMPANIES CAN'T SEEM TO LOSE IN SACRAMENTO
Uber and Lyft have racked up a string of recent victories at the Capitol in recent weeks, using influence to defeat legislation that would have restricted the companies' prices and pushing through regulations that make it easier to offer carpooling. Liam Dillon explains what's behind Uber and Lyft's success: lobbying efforts inside and outside the Capitol, tech-friendly Democrats and a regulator who doesn't want to regulate them.
Our Essential Politics news feed has the latest in California politics and legislation moving in Sacramento.
'A WAY FOR ME TO COME OUT OF HIDING'
A state law authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) allows California's 40 licensing boards to issue professional licenses to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Patrick McGreevy reports that so far, more than 300 people have applied for licenses through the year-old program, including Marco Nava, who was able return to his work as a cosmetologist.
"It was a way for me to come out of hiding," said Nava, 32. "I no longer have to wake up at 4 in the morning to go do something that is not my profession. Now I can take care of my kids, take them to school and go do something that I love doing."
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO BROWN'S PAROLE INITIATIVE?
The California Supreme Court now holds the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown's prison parole overhaul plan in its hands.
Last week, the justices heard arguments for whether the proposed ballot initiative on Brown's plan was properly vetted by Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. As Maura Dolan and John Myers reported, the justices sounded as though they would allow the proposal to keep making its way towards the ballot — thus overturning a Sacramento judge's ruling this past winter to block Brown's plan.
CONGRESSMAN SAYS CANCER WON'T STOP HIS RE-ELECTION BID
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier says he still plans to seek a second term, even after announcing he has incurable leukemia. In July, the Concord Democrat was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a common form of blood cancer that cannot be cured, but can be managed like diabetes. He didn't announce the diagnosis until after his cancer went into remission.
"I'm lucky that I have something that has an 85% survival rate," he said. His doctors called it a "dramatic remission," DeSaulnier told Sarah Wire last week.
ABOUT THAT FREE PUBLIC COLLEGE PLAN
Some scoff at Sanders' idea for free public college tuition, but George Skelton argues in his Monday column that the plan is a good one — and California has done it before.
PODCAST: TOBACCO POLITICS
The governor's decision to sign five new tobacco laws last week made national news and was the final chapter in an intense political battle in Sacramento that's lasted for months. Or was it? In this week's California Politics Podcast, Myers leads a roundtable discussion on what might happen if Big Tobacco asks voters to overturn one or more of those laws by referendum.
— The students who invited Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of State, to speak at Scripps College's commencement thought it was a slam-dunk for the all-female university. But, as Rosanna Xia writes, other students have denounced Albright as a "war criminal" and can't abide her insinuation that they could wind up in "a special place in hell" if they didn't support Clinton.
— Citing concern Friday that a "media frenzy" would ensue if a trial were held before the November presidential election, the judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit against Trump over a real estate "university" accused of defrauding students scheduled a late November date for the years-old litigation. Jury selection in the case, which is expected to last four weeks or longer, is set to begin Nov. 28. Trump's attorney said the billionaire businessman plans to attend as much of the trial as possible — and testify.
— The Times Editorial Board explains its qualified endorsement of Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for the U.S. Senate race.
— The Assembly race in San Bernardino County looks like it'll be long and expensive, after the first union-backed independent expenditure entered the fray, supporting Democrat Eloise Reyes against Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino). In a campaign launched last week, online and "mobile billboard" ads dub Brown "Chevron Cheryl" and criticize her ties with oil companies. Spending by outside groups is already nearing $1 million, most of it in support of Brown. TV ads already are blanketing the airwaves.
— Noah Bierman details how the nation's crumbling infrastructure just might get attention from the next president.
— Mexico's Vicente Fox tells The Times why he's backing Clinton for president.
— Mexico's chief diplomat spent time in Sacramento last week, but she didn't want to talk about Trump.
— California's new voter guide is out and offers some offbeat tidbits about a few of the candidates in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, including one who has dabbled in "mind control slavery" research.
— Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard reflected on her late father, Rep. Edward Roybal, and what it was like to follow him to Congress.
— USC's Dan Schnur penned an op-ed arguing that for California Republicans, Trump's doomed and divisive candidacy could actually represent an opportunity to get back on the path to political relevancy in this deep-blue state.
— The Times Editorial Board writes that it is officially doomsday for the GOP establishment.
— What do you think of Trump? Readers can weigh in with our quick survey.