How California — yes, California — could make a Trump reelection more difficult

Source: By Amber Phillips, Washington Post • Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Politically speaking, President Trump hasn’t had to worry much about in California, one the most liberal states in the nation. But that could soon change.

The state’s Democratic-controlled legislature wrapped up its 2017 session Friday by sending three bills to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) that could significantly influence Trump’s reelection chances, how closely he guards his tax returns and his ability to deliver on one of his central campaign promises — to deport more immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Here are three major moves California is making that Trump will probably want to pay attention to if he wants a second term:

1. California could be one of the first states to vote for president

A voter casts a ballot on Election Day in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

Lawmakers passed a bill Friday night that would move California’s 2020 presidential primary for both parties from June to March. That means that if no other states try to leapfrog them, California could move from one of the last states to vote for president to the fifth state, after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Some background: California has tried to move upp its primary for two decades, but other states have just jumped ahead. In 2011, the state basically gave up and Brown signed a bill moving it back to June. But in 2016, the state’s Democratic voters didn’t even get a say in who won their party’s nomination. Hillary Clinton found out she had clinched the nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) hours before California voters were about to cast ballots.

“California got really frustrated last year,” said Eric Bauman, chairman of California’s Democratic Party.

How this could be trouble for Trump: A couple of ways. Obviously, Trump wouldn’t be competing against a Democrat for votes in the primary season. But what happens in California could decide which Democrat will eventually challenge him. In 2016, 20 percent of Democratic delegates in California were up for grabs. Winning big in California could help a Democrat clinch the nomination in the spring instead of the summer. And if you can wrap up the primary in the spring, you have more time to focus on taking out an incumbent president.

This move also could boost potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders from California, such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

It could also thrust issues that are more popular on the left onto the national stage. Imagine candidates hopping from the Iowa State Fair, talking ethanol, to an art festival in Orange County, where they’re asked about their plans to combat climate change.

“The Prime Time Primary makes sure the voices of California voters are heard on the issues that matter the most to us,” state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement, “like climate change, protecting immigrants and their descendants, manufacturing and innovation jobs, and criminal justice reform.”

2. California could require presidential candidates to share their tax returns 

Donald Trump signs his 2015 tax returns. (Twitter image)

Another bill sitting on Brown’s desk would force any presidential candidate who wants to be on the ballot in California to release his or her tax returns to state officials.

How this could spell trouble for Trump:
Well, this bill was singularly directed at him. He is the first major presidential candidate in more than 40 years to refuse to release his tax returns. If Brown signs this bill into law, Trump will face a choice: release his tax returns, or forgo running in California’s general election and its 55 electoral votes.

3. California could become a sanctuary state

Foreign nationals are arrested in Los Angeles on Feb. 7. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

Brown is also deciding whether to sign a bill that would prevent local and state law enforcement agencies from helping the federal government deport undocumented immigrants.

How this could be trouble for Trump: Setting up sanctuary cities is one of the most high-profile acts of defiance to the Trump presidency, and California wants to become less cooperative with federal officials who need state and local law enforcement help to deport illegal immigrants. A bill, also written by Lara, is on Brown’s desk. It would block the Trump administration from expanding immigration detention in California.

Actually, this battle has already started. In his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order declaring that sanctuary cities are in violation of federal law and “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people.” His attorney general tried to cut off funding for more than $1 billion in law enforcement grants to San Francisco and Santa Clara for setting up as sanctuary cities. But in April and again in June, a U.S. District Court judge blocked Trump from defunding those cities.

The Trump administration is losing similar legal battles in Texas and Chicago.  If Trump can’t deliver on this promise because of California, it could ding him in the eyes of his supporters elsewhere in the nation.