President Trump on Tuesday will begin a two-day fundraising swing through California, a state that has made itself the heart of the resistance to his administration’s policies.
Trump is in the Golden State to collect money for his reelection bid.
He will hold fundraisers in Palo Alto and Los Angeles on Tuesday, with additional donor events scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles and San Diego.
The West Coast swing is unusual for the president, who is deeply unpopular in much of California. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in California by more than 4 million votes, while defeating him in the national popular vote by nearly 3 million.
The president’s visit is certain to trigger protests among residents, and talk about who might attend fundraisers for the president ticked off a mini-controversy earlier this month when actress Debra Messing said the list of those attending Trump’s events should be published.
Messing walked back the remarks after coming under criticism by others in Hollywood who suggested she was hinting at blacklisting Trump attendees.
Trump does not appear to hold California in high esteem and often holds it up as a bastion of crime, squalor and liberal policies to be feared.
Yet Trump’s allies and Republican strategists see a purpose for trekking out west that goes beyond the cash haul.
They think Trump’s visit can help Republicans win back House seats lost in 2018.
“There’s a benefit to contrast what Republican leadership looks like and what Democrat leadership looks like, but it’s also an opportunity for us to train and organize in key areas to help take back some of the seats we narrowly lost in 2018,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Whether Trump can actually help his party in California remains to be seen. Republicans lost six House seats in the state to Democrats in 2018 in a midterm election driven by suburban voter displeasure with Trump.
In Orange County, where former Presidents Nixon and Reagan have roots, the number of registered Democrats exceeded the number of registered Republicans as of August.
The anger against the president fueling Democrats often seems most energized on the West Coast.
California has sued the Trump administration a total of 59 times as of Monday, bringing or joining lawsuits against the travel ban, the rollback of environmental standards and various immigration rules.
“We don’t wake up looking to pick a fight, but when the administration threatens California’s people, values and resources, we’re ready,” Sarah Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Xavier Becerra, said in a statement to The Hill.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill earlier this year that would require Trump to release his tax returns to appear on the state’s 2020 primary ballot, a move that prompted legal challenges of its own.
And the state has positioned itself as a liberal beacon, with municipalities implementing “sanctuary city” policies to protect immigrants and the state enacting its own environmental standards that have broken with the Trump administration.
Trump has visited California rarely while in office. He’s pushed for his border wall in San Diego and Calexico, and he toured wildfire damage last year. Earlier this year, he held a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, and then stopped to play golf at his Rancho Palos Verdes club.
Trump has repeatedly feuded with California officials while treating the state as a political foil.
The president threatened to withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for the state in the aftermath of historic wildfires, arguing that officials should first improve forest management practices.
Trump last year picked a fight with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, accusing her of obstructing justice by warning residents of an impending immigration raid.
At recent campaign rallies and speaking engagements, Trump has blamed Democrats for the deterioration of America’s inner cities. He has cited Los Angeles and San Francisco as examples of metro areas in decline because of his political opponents.
Even more recently, he has floated intervening in Los Angeles to address the city’s homelessness crisis.
“Take a look at what’s going on,” Trump said at a House GOP retreat last week. “And we’re going to have to step in and do something about it because we can’t allow that to happen to our great cities. Los Angeles is a great city. We can’t allow it.”
The governor’s office and the Los Angeles mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment about whether they had been in touch with the White House ahead of Trump’s visit about specific efforts focused on homelessness.
The White House declined to comment on the president’s activities beyond his public schedule. There are no events listed in which Trump is set to announce any initiatives on homelessness, though The Washington Post reported that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson may travel to California this week to further lay plans for a government effort.
The Washington Post reported last week that the Trump administration is considering repurposing government facilities to house homeless people in Los Angeles or razing existing tent camps.
Gorka, the RNC spokesman, said Trump’s push on homelessness is a political winner for the president.
“What you see is a president actually speaking the truth about what’s actually happening on their streets,” he said. “I think it’s encouraging to see somebody that actually wants to talk about, and not shy away from, the problem.”
Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said advocates for the homeless would likely support the federal government taking a more constructive role in addressing the issue, but that there is distrust the Trump administration will put forward meaningful policies because of his past rhetoric about the state.
He also said money is likely motivating Trump’s trip more than anything.
“I think there is just a lot of money he’d be leaving on the table if he didn’t visit California. I do think that’s probably the first motivation,” he said. “At the same time, Trump certainly likes to choose his enemies, and California has become a kind of foil for him, in part by its own choice.”
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