Donald Trump returns to his midtown office after voting on primary day in New York on April 19. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
It's getting close to crunch time for presidential campaigns in California. The state's primary is June 7, but an increasing number of voters are choosing to vote-by-mail, and the bulk of those ballots will go out in May.
On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz is thought to have the best-organized ground game in California. But Donald Trump is making his presence known. The campaign recently hired Republican strategist Tim Clark as its state director. And Clark is aiming high.
“We have 172 delegates in California. And our intention is to deliver 172 delegates to the National Convention for Donald Trump,” Clark says.
That's an ambitious plan. There are 53 congressional districts in California, each with three delegates up for grabs. So how does Clark propose winning all of them?
"Skywriters," he jokes, before elaborating on the messages he thinks will appeal to California Republicans.
"Donald Trump's message of economic prosperity, you know, let's get our small businesses growing again, I think that resonates with all families across California," Clark says.
But there are barriers between Trump and the state's delegates, barriers like Republican political consultant Rob Stutzman. He's doing what he can to ensure Trump does not walk away with California.
“If this is going to come to California, we’re not going to let Donald Trump have the nomination without fighting for it," Stutzman says.
As polls show Trump getting thumped in a General Election by either Democrat running, Stutzman says a Trump nomination would be devastating for his party. He and several other Republican consultants are actively working to make sure it doesn’t happen. But that’s easier said than done.
In California, a candidate gets three convention delegates for every Congressional district he wins. So Stutzman says the relatively few Republican voters in San Francisco matter just as much those in Bakersfield. And they might be easier to win, since there are fewer Republicans to convince.
"The poor Republicans who suffer as Republicans in Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco," he says, "living in the Marina where all their neighbors probably don’t want to talk to them at cocktail parties, well these may be the very people who determine whether or not Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee.”
Stutzman and others point to controversial statements made by Trump, like comments on immigrants and women, as an example of his polarizing nature. But Clark says supporters find Trump's demeanor appealing.
"I think voters, more than anything else right now, want a genuine, authentic candidate," Clark says. "And I think Donald Trump is genuine and authentic."