When George W. Bush began running for president eight-plus years ago, he lavished attention on California, a state his father had won in 1988 but lost in 1992 as Bill Clinton captured the White House.
The younger Bush campaigned in California extensively, but it went for naught as then-Vice President Al Gore ran up a million-plus-vote victory while devoting virtually no resources to the state.
In the aftermath, the Bush White House virtually ignored California, believing that it didn't need the state. Bush visited California rarely, mostly to visit natural disaster scenes or military bases. The 2004 presidential election in California was a virtual repeat of 2000, with John Kerry winning by the same margin as Gore, and Bush spending no time or money on the state.
The Bush presidency was an enormous contrast with Clinton's reign. The Democratic president visited the state dozens of times, wallowing in the adoration of Hollywood figures and hobnobbing with San Francisco's social elite. He had a White House aide, John Emerson, as California's designated liaison.
Whether California benefited from Clinton's attention, or suffered from being ignored by Bush, is problematic. Clinton came into office as the Cold War was ending and the huge military/aerospace sector was beginning to feel the impact of Pentagon cutbacks, which led to what was – at least until now – California's worst recession since the Great Depression. Conversely, California's economy prospered during most of this decade.
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