So, why did Sen. Hillary Clinton come to UCSB?
Judging by the circumstances, the presidential hopeful’s quick stop at the Pavilion Gym last night seemed to be an almost spur-of-the-moment decision. The event came as a surprise to local law enforcement, as illustrated by the unorganized, semi-violent line of approximately 3,000 people that formed in front of the Rec Cen early yesterday, and caught local news agencies by surprise, giving them little time to prepare. Although it was the Democratic candidate’s first visit to UCSB since 1992, the press and the law were not informed of it until about noon the day before.
Furthermore, the location of UCSB – and the Pavilion Gym – did not initially appear to lend itself to high-profile campaigning events. While the surrounding area may carry with it a population of over 150,000 people, it certainly does not compare to the metropolis that is Los Angeles 90 miles to the south.
Further convoluting the question, the one thing that Santa Barbara clearly does have to offer – cold, hard cash – was not center stage last night. The senator from New York, who spent a mere two hours in the county, was not fundraising last night when she visited the area, officials said.
However, according to interviews with state and local officials in Clinton’s campaign, the senator’s trip to UCSB was indicative of what is to come.
According to campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino, thanks to this year’s new primary schedule, California, with its 441 primary delegates, has gained new prominence in the race. As a result, Hillary and the rest of the Clinton family will spend a great deal of time in California and its universities, like UCSB, in the weeks building up to the Feb. 5 primary.
“One of the things Hillary said was she wanted to visit as much of the state as possible,” Vizcaino said. “She wants to go to different parts of the state and talk to young voters. She said she wanted to come back to Santa Barbara and talk to students here.”
Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf attended last night’s event and said Clinton will need young voters if she is to win the Democratic bid for President.
“[Her decision to come to UCSB] shows that she understands the value of the student vote.” Wolf said. “This is not fundraising. She’s here to invigorate the student vote.”
UCSB political science professor Eric Smith said the senator’s visit to the campus was a good opportunity for her to reach out to one of the most important voting demographics – the voters who fall between the ages of 18 and 25. Smith said that while Barack Obama’s supporters appear to be prevalent on campus, he also believes the media over-emphasizes the Illinois senator’s popularity among youth voters.
“The association of Obama with young voters is exaggerated,” Smith said. “Obama does better among young voters than middle-aged and older voters, but Clinton holds a strong lead in all age categories in California, according to the latest polls. She should do quite well among UCSB students.”
According to Michael Trujillo, the statewide field director for Clinton’s campaign, the rescheduling afforded UCSB students, as well as the rest of the nearby community, the opportunity to “kick the tires” a little bit last night.
“This is a testament to the fact that Feb. 5 – moving the primaries – means that California voters, for the first time in a really long time, get to have a say,” Trujillo said.
Staffers and officials also stressed the urgency of the situation in the state, despite the fact that the primary is more than two weeks away. Clinton staffer Kamyl Bazbaz said that absentee ballots are being mailed in at a rate of roughly 100,000 a day – meaning that voters are making their decisions long before many candidates can reach them.
The senator and her family will not only fly through big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, Trujillo said. He pointed to former President Bill Clinton’s stop in Eureka two nights ago, his recent stint at UC Davis and the senator’s visit to the central coast yesterday, stating that Hillary will take her campaign to all corners of the Golden State.
“I think in the coming weeks, we’re going to have Sen. Clinton going to a lot of towns that presidential candidates don’t normally go to,” Trujillo said.
-Evan Wagstaff and Mackenzie Weinger contributed to this article.