The State Of California: Inside The Biden Campaign

The State of California
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

The Biden campaign, once lagging far behind President Trump in fundraising, is now beating it, raising record amounts of money, most of it from small donors online.

And much of the newfound energy and money for the Biden campaign is coming from Californians.

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are raising ridiculous amounts of money, with each team taking in more than a quarter billion dollars in the past quarter, with the Democrats slightly ahead for the first time. But Team Trump probably has more cash on hand, since it has raised almost $1 billion dollars for this campaign already.

Steve Westly is the former California State Controller, a former Democratic candidate for governor, and now a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and a top fundraiser for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. He joined us on KCBS Radio's "The State Of California."

First off, how big a role is California playing in driving this Biden money train to heights it simply hasn’t seen before?

I think it’s going to play a huge role. California is obviously the largest state in the nation, 40 million people, fifth largest economy in the world. And I think people here really want to see it change. California’s going to be playing a key role, not just in funding the Biden campaign in, I believe, victory, but also in having an enormous number of volunteers, probably into the hundreds of thousands, calling into the key battleground states. I think that will prove to be decisive on both fronts.

For a long time, polls suggested that voters were actually pretty lukewarm about Joe Biden. When you look at this new energy and momentum, is this about new support for Joe Biden? Is it a new passion for removing Donald Trump from office? Or a combination of both?

I think it’s a combination of both, you put your finger right on it. Joe Biden is clearly the most experienced candidate in the race. He’s just on the right side of the issues. He’s pro jobs, pro environment, pro science, pro healthcare. It’s just hard to imagine running for president, as Donald Trump is, being the champion of coal companies, the champion of Russia, advocating for Confederate flags, and in the middle of a pandemic, saying it’s time to take the Affordable Care Act insurance away from people. So I think he’s roundly ended up on the wrong side of the issues. That, combined with his mishandling of the coronavirus and the economy, just puts him in a very tough spot.

Take us behind the scenes a little bit. How hard is it to raise money through virtual fundraisers during the pandemic? How has it changed the process?

There’s three points here. The first time I heard about virtual fundraisers (and I’m a tech executive) I thought, ‘Boy, that’s a tough sell.’ People want to meet the candidate. But the fact is, after three months of hunkering down at home, most of us have gotten used to virtual everything. And I would say they’re effective, you get used to it. The Biden campaign has done that extremely well.

The second point is Joe Biden is just one of the most likeable figures in American politics today. And I think people see him online, they have a chance to hear him speak, he is very genuine. He has a likability factor that Bill Clinton had and Obama had. That’s the sort of thing that can lead to a big electoral win.

But the big issue, and you just can’t get around this, is the numbers. I’m obviously a Democrat, so I have my preferences. But when you’re Donald Trump, and you’ve inherited an economy with a record-low 4% unemployment rate and you dry that up to 11% with 35 million Americans unemployed, you’ve got a problem. As everybody knows, this president started out in January saying ‘Hey, look. There’s only 15 people with coronavirus in America and they’re all getting better.’ Well, now we’re looking at 3 million people affected, 50,000 people declared just today that they’ve tested positive. We’re the outlier in the world for poorly handling this. And that’s just going to make it awfully tough for him to get re-elected.

One particularly grim statistic is where roughly 134,000 Americans died. By the time the election rolls around, that number and the current trend line will be over 180,000. That’s three times the amount of people we lost in Vietnam. And this problem could have been handled much better in countries like Germany, Australia and countries around the world did. We just have the wrong guy on the job.

I want to switch gears to the “veepstakes.” How short do you think the Vice Presidential short list is now? What do you hearing about who’s still in the running to be Joe Biden’s running mate?

I don’t have any insider track. First, we’ve got some extraordinary candidates. You’ve got people like Senator Tammy Duckworth, veteran, wounded in battle, U.S. Senator, an Asian American woman with stunning patriotic woman; Susan Rice, scholar, woman of color; Val Demings, former police chief, African American Congresswoman from Florida. But I think the real exciting story for those of us in California is we have our own junior senator, Kamala Harris, who is a top contender. And now it looks like another contender Karen Bass, a former speaker of the California legislature and Congresswoman in Los Angeles is in the race too. I’m excited we have two Californians in contention, so it’s going to be exciting. I don’t know who we’re going to choose, we’re going to see a woman. And I think whoever that is stands a good chance of being the first woman president. So I’m excitged and hoping it’s a Californian.

Talk to us a little about your concerns about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. There are still many progressives who are reluctant to support Joe Biden.

That always happens. I think and hope that most progressives will look at the choice they face in November and will say that Joe Biden is clearly the person who best represents them and the country. Also I think the Biden campaign has done a good job at reaching out across the aisle on the platform. So I think those folks, mostly, will come on board. What’s interesting is I think we’re seeing an increasing number of Republicans that just can’t pull that lever for Donald Trump in November, mostly because they think he’s not a real Republican, partly because he’s a radical and partly because he’s done a terrible job with the economy and the coronavirus. So I think Biden has a chance to pull a larger-than-expected number of progressives, and I think he’s going to choose a lot of people in the middle, so it will be interesting to see. Right now if you’re Joe Biden, you’re up by 14% nationally and ahead in all the battleground states, so you’ve got to feel pretty good. Mr. Trump looks more a radical by the week.