San Diego Union Tribune

April 30, 2007

'Abundance of riches' for the undecided

Eager voters weigh ideals, electability


For delegates who came to the California Democratic Party convention still uncommitted to a presidential candidate, this weekend's showcase of nearly every Democratic White House hopeful must have seemed the ultimate in one-stop shopping.

Most of those among the state party faithful pronounced themselves immensely pleased with their choices – from the former first lady to the Illinois senator to the 2004 vice presidential candidate. At the same time, some were still hunting for that perfect “bargain” – the candidate who embraces most of their ideals but who also has the chops to beat a Republican in 2008.



“There are so many good candidates,” said Sally Guza, , 56, from San Diego's Clairemont neighborhood. “It's an abundance of riches, and that makes it hard to make a choice.”

She's made her pick – former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – but knows many delegates who haven't.

As state political conventions go, the three-day gathering of more than 3,000 delegates and volunteers at the San Diego Convention Center worked well to rally party activists and present a unified front on ending the war in Iraq, improving health care and overhauling immigration laws, among other issues.

Seven of the eight Democratic White House hopefuls spoke at the convention, a presence most observers attribute to California's new importance in the nominating contest thanks to the state's earlier Feb. 5 primary. Only Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware did not attend, though he plans to speak Wednesday in San Francisco.

State Democratic conventions tend to attract the left-leaning members of the party, and so such meetings don't fully reflect the more moderate statewide Democratic population. As a result, this weekend's delegate response was especially hearty for those candidates with more liberal views.

For instance, several delegates confessed to a struggle between their hearts and heads when it came to candidates such as Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman with the most strident anti-war voice in the Democratic race but whose chances of winning the nomination or beating a GOP nominee appear slim. Kucinich has accused his opponents of perpetuating a war they claim to oppose by continuing to authorize money for it.

“He doesn't seem to be afraid to talk about the hard subjects,” said Janet Meredith, a 51-year-old pharmacist from Clairemont. “He's very liberal and proud of it and makes no apologies.”

But others said Kucinich is probably too liberal to beat a Republican in next year's general election.

“Whenever you select a candidate, you have to think about viability,” said Tim Orozco, a a political science instructor at Southwestern College who lives in San Diego's University Heights neighborhood. “We're California Democrats and we're activists and we're really going to be much more liberal. But we have to capture moderate votes and you can't do that by being in your face about impeaching Bush.”

Impeaching President Bush was indeed a recurring theme at the convention. Yesterday, delegates approved a resolution calling on Congress to investigate whether Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney abused their power when leading America into the Iraq war, and to take appropriate action, which could include impeachment. Delegates wore T-shirts reading “Impeach Bush & Cheney,” while a large crowd of anti-war demonstrators stood outside the convention throughout the weekend, chanting for the removal of the president and vice president.

Despite criticism from some delegates for voting to authorize the Iraq war, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton held her own during the gathering with an authoritative speech promising she is “ready to lead.”

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, clearly the crowd favorite, simply rocked the convention hall with his thundering call for “a new kind of politics.”

And Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, won a hearty reception with his emphasis on promoting organized labor and fighting poverty.

The delegates gave, at minimum, enthusiastic, cordial responses to the other candidates who appeared, including Kucinich, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

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