California 'ATM' for Obama, Romney

Updated: 2012-10-25 13:46


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LOS ANGELES - With no election debates, no forums, no rallies, no TV ads, California seems to be a backwater in the heated-up US presidential race. But while the two candidates would never bother to fight for the state, both would need it as a key funding source.

Neither President Barack Obama nor Republican challenger Mitt Romney has spent campaign money on TV ads or attended election debates and campaign rallies in California. The reason is clear: The game is over before it starts.

California has 55 electoral votes, or more than 10 percent of all available electoral votes nationwide. But Democrats have dominated California, and Obama is sure to win 55 electoral votes no matter how Romney tries.

So, there is no need for Obama to spend any money to fight a commercial war in the state. As for Romney, he would never spend money either for a battleground he has seen no hope to win.

However, both candidates have visited California frequently for one purpose: to raise more money for their campaigns to spend in other states. It is a new kind of gold rush in the Golden State.

Obama is travelling to Los Angeles Wednesday for a brief visit, his seventh this year and second this month.

He has paid more visits to California than he has visited the battlegrounds of North Carolina, New Hampshire, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, and nearly as many as he has been to Nevada, a pivotal state for him.

Obama has held 21 fundraising events this year in California alone, raising nearly $68 million dollars by Sept 30, or 12 percent of his $556 million campaign money raised nationwide, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Romney has also visited the Golden State four times this year, though not as often as Obama.

By September, he has raised $33.8 million in California, which consists of 9.9 percent of the total $339.8 million he has raised nationwide.

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It is true that California has become an ATM for both candidates with big flow of money into their campaigns not to be spent in California but in other states pivotal to their elections.

The growth in the Latino and Asian population has helped make California a reliably Democratic state today. But historically, from 1952 through 1988, Republicans won every presidential election except the landslide loss of Barry Goldwater in 1964. In 2008, Obama defeated John McCain by 61 percent to 37 percent in the state.

A recent poll shows that California's electoral votes aren't in question for Obama, who is leading Romney by 24 percentage points.

Knowing their campaign contributions have been spent in other states, some Californians held that US presidential candidates should spend time in the region where they are raising money.

They complained that the state's issues are ignored while swing states' problems are overemphasized with both candidates busy wooing the voters there.

It has been suggested that the US national election system should switch from the Electoral College to a popular vote system. That would make California more than just relevant but critical to a presidential candidate.

But if that happened, "Iowa would cry. New Hampshire would cry," Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, told the press.

In the absence of that influence on the national race, Californians are resigned to the fact that they "are not part of the national dialogue except in so far as our position as the ATM of American politics," Jeffe was quoted as saying.