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Notebook: As Bernie Backs Abboud in 37th Assembly Brawl, Biden Seeks Hope in Slow-Moving Dem Vote

I.V. Favorite Son Jonathan Abboud got a late boost in the final weekend before Election Day, when presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders jumped into the maelstrom that is the 37th Assembly District race on his behalf.

Sanders, the democratic socialist expected to finish first in Tuesday’s presidential primary, handpicked Abboud as one of just four candidates for state and local offices in California to receive his endorsement, praising them, um, collectively, as “candidates who believe in the power of grassroots organizing and understand that real change comes from the bottom on up, not the top on down.”

Abboud worked hard to nail down the far-left turf in the seven candidate Assembly free-for-all, which includes five other Democrats, by enthusiastically campaigning for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and other Sanders-friendly policies.

Anybody who tells you they know what’s going to happen in the Assembly race is lying, but having the blessing of the presidential contender with the largest and best mobilized grassroots organization in the state won't hurt Jonathan's long shot chances on Tuesday of making the November runoff.

"These community leaders will fight for the progressive values and policies California families deserve and together, we are going to build a movement to transform this nation so that it works for all our people,” the Vermont Senator and Larry David doppelganger said of Abboud, along with candidates in two other, far-flung legislative races and a San Francisco board of supervisors seat.

Democrats moving slowly. Stats from Political Data Inc., the top-drawer election outfit run by California data expert Paul Mitchell, shows that in the 37th, as elsewhere in the state, Democratic voters have been in adagio mode in retuning their ballots.

Just over one-fourth of the 212,507 ballots that were mailed out to registered voters had been returned, Mitchell reported on Monday morning:

Of the total 57,798 that had been returned, less than half were from Democrats; although they dominate registration in the district, only about one-fourth of their ballots had been sent back for counting, while Republicans had a significantly higher turn-in rate:

What it means. Statewide, Mitchell reported a significant drop-off among dependable Democratic voters in returned ballots to this point, compared to the previous two presidential primaries in the state. Intriguingly, the drop-off manifest among the most dedicated Dem voters -- "perfect" voters who have participated in the past five elections -- he told ace political reporters David Siders and Chris Cadelago over at Politico.

One interpretation of the data is that Democrats who fear the socialist Sanders at the top of the ticket, both in a one-on-one race against Trump and for the impact he could have on down ballot contests, waited to mail in their ballots for the outcome of Saturday's South Carolina primary to weigh the performances of the moderate faction candidates.

With Joe Biden's big win there, and the immediate withdrawals soon after of fellow center-left Dems Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Biden partisans are hoping for a late rush of ballots that will not only earn him some delegates in California, but also begin to consolidate moderates enough to slow Sanders' momentum and engage him in a competitive one-on-one fight for the nomination over the next several months.


Siders and Cadelago report:

These “perfect” Democratic voters dropped from 57 percent turnout by this point in 2008 and 62 percent turnout in 2016 to 46 percent turnout so far this year, according to the data compiled and shared by Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc. That means Biden, coming off South Carolina, has more room to expand his support before Tuesday...

“If all of these really high-performing Democratic voters had already cast their ballots then it narrows the window that you have to actually make an impact on Monday and Tuesday right before the election,” Mitchell said.

Bernie vs. Biden? Democrats in more than a dozen states will cast ballots Tuesday to determine about one-third of the delegates who will decide the party's nomination at its summer convention in Milwaukee, with California the largest prize of all.

Sanders has dominated recent polls in the state but Biden needs to demonstrate some viability in California, both psychologically and numerically, to avoid seeing Bernie run away with the nomination. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads in California alone on a bet he can break through here, faces the same test, as does Elizabeth Warren, who needs a strong California showing to rejuvenate her flagging campaign.

As a practical matter, this means winning at least 15 percent of the statewide vote, as well as meeting that threshold in at least some congressional districts. Under the Democratic Party's arcane rules, there are 54 separate primaries on Tuesday -- the statewide ballot, as well as presidential contests in each of the state's 53 House districts -- each of which award delegates to all candidates who hit the 15 percent marker.

Another factor: California’s election system, set up to encourage and enable as much participation as possible, this year for the first time includes same-day voter registration, which could delay the state's notoriously slow counting of ballots even more.

If Sanders' statewide organization cracks it open, it could be clear on election night that he's running away with California's delegate count; if not, it could take weeks to determine the outcome with exactitude.

Don't forget to vote.


Images: Jonathan Abboud; Bernie Sanders and Larry David (; Latest data, as of post time, on returned ballots in 37th Assembly District (Political Data, Inc.); Joe Biden and Sanders (CNN).

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