Essential Politics: Biden takes Disney detour


I’m Christina Bellantoni, here to begin your week with Essential Politics. The U.S. House is on recess, presidential hopefuls are doing debate prep, and Vice President Biden took his grandchildren to Disney World over the weekend.

The White House did not put Biden’s recreational family activity on his official Saturday schedule when announcing he would deliver evening remarks at the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando, Fla.

But Saturday afternoon, visitors to the Magic Kingdom noticed him taking in the sights, slowing down traffic and riding the rides as a VIP, Secret Service and all. He even posed for pictures.

As for the next Republican debate scheduled for Tuesday evening, a new lineup on stage will make things interesting. What would you like the candidates to address? Send us your questions and we may feature them in tomorrow’s Essential Politics.


David Lauter reports that our new USC Dornsife-L.A. Times poll was out this weekend with lots of interesting data not only on the presidential race, but also the underlying voter attitudes that are shaping politics a year ahead of the election.

Here are a few of the highlights:

In the GOP race, Donald Trump and Ben Carson remain in the lead, both nationally and in California, but Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have moved into a solid second tier. Jeb Bush, the party’s former front runner, has fallen to 4% in both our statewide and national samples.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to draw just under half of Democratic votes, while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont gets just about a third. Most of the rest say they’re undecided. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, gets just 2%.

Trump’s voters overwhelmingly say they think immigrants mostly make the U.S. weaker, not stronger. Carson’s backers are heavily religious, with about 1 in 4 saying they attend religious services more than once a week.

Rubio is drawing strong support from the college-educated wing of the GOP, sitting in first place in California among Republican voters with degrees.

Overall, voters express considerable pessimism about the country, with Republicans focused on moral decline and anxieties over the diversity of the country’s population, while Democrats worry about an economy that they see as tilted too far toward the wealthy.

Pessimism is particularly strong among white voters who do not have a college education. By contrast, minority voters, particularly those who have graduated from college, express considerable optimism about the future.

As Michael Finnegan reports, the poll shows a wide disparity within California about views of future economic prospects. California voters living in the Bay Area are quite optimistic on this front, and in general, voters living in coastal counties are relatively optimistic. By contrast, voters inland are much more pessimistic, particularly in the Inland Empire.


The election might be one year away, but political action is already hot and heavy up and down the state.

Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers reports that the November ballot might just be a blockbuster, with perhaps as many as 19 measures that all have a shot at going before voters next fall.

The last time California’s ballot was that long was in November 2004, when there were 16 propositions, he writes.

It’s also yet another example of elections having consequences, Thanks to the state's record-low voter turnout in 2014, a new and extremely low number of voter signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the ballot. Find out what voters might be asked to decide.

And Melanie Mason reports on what is seeming to be the latest manifestation of a new political order taking shape in the Capitol — one that favors centrist Democrats. She writes that California Republicans have no plans to aid Kristin Olsen, the leader of the Assembly Republicans, in a potential challenge to Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, even though she only narrowly won her seat four years ago and the district would seem ripe for an attempt.

Galgiani is considered business-friendly. She was the only Democrat to vote no in June on an ambitious bill to fight climate change, though she switched sides once a controversial provision opposed by oil companies was dropped.

Olsen told Mason while she would be disappointed to mount a bid without party funds behind her, she wouldn’t let that dissuade her. She’ll make a decision by the end of the year.

And if next November isn’t long-term enough for you, Cathleen Decker uses her Sunday column to look at the most competitive California election — the one coming in 2018.


Javier Panzar wanted to know more about Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s estate in wine country, worth at least $5 million.

Pelosi disclosed a range of between $5 million and $25 million in value for the sprawling St. Helena home on the banks of the Napa River on her financial disclosure form. You can see all of the assets and liabilities she listed here as part of our project detailing the minimum net worth of all 55 members of the California congressional delegation.

See a photo of the property and find out if Pelosi’s wine might be coming to a bottle shop near you.


Sarah Wire reports that while the House is on recess this week, Pelosi is leading six members including Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) on a trip to China "focusing on economic growth, national security and cyber security issues, human rights and the importance of bold action to reduce carbon pollution."

Pelosi’s staff declined to release more details about the length of the trip, where in China the members will visit or with whom they will meet.


-- In a Friday night news dump, state Consumer Services Secretary Anna Caballero told colleagues she is stepping down effective the end of this week, Myers reported.

-- A California Democrat used a new post office to be named for Marilyn Monroe as an opportunity to make fun of Trump.

-- Even though reviews were awful, Trump scored "Saturday Night Live" its highest ratings in more than three years.

-- Wire reports that two Californians were named to the committee negotiating a final highway bill and details what the Golden State can expect once it becomes law.

-- Senate leader Kevin de León is headed to England for meetings about clean energy, ahead of the Paris climate summit next month.

-- Evan Halper finds Clinton is locking up the Southern primaries.

-- George Skelton weighs in on Gov. Jerry Brown using state resources to look for oil and gas on his family’s property. Chris Megerian reported how the governor is taking heat since the Associated Press report was published last week.


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