California has become a key battleground in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. Yesterday, both candidates sent their top surrogates to Los Angeles. KPCC's Frank Stoltze visited an African American church where former President Bill Clinton was speaking on behalf of his wife. Brian Watt was at two other local churches.
Frank Stoltze: Former President Clinton visited three African-American churches in Gardena, Norwalk, and South L.A.
Reverend Frederick Murph: The man who is a president for all people for all times, none other than William Jefferson Clinton! [Crowd cheers] Come on, stand up, give him a big hand!
Bill Clinton: All my life I've been waiting to vote for an African-American for president. [Crowd laughs and applauds]
Stoltze: At Brookins AME Church, Clinton struck a softer tone than he did in the South Carolina primary as he sought to drum up support among a black electorate that's been shifting toward Barack Obama. He never mentioned Obama by name. Instead, he focused on his wife's experience.
Bill Clinton: She did things that changed other people's lives, and she's done it in the Senate. And I want her to be president because she believes nobody should be invisible, or left behind, or ignored.
Linda Gantt: I appreciated what he had to say, but I'm still undecided.
Stoltze: Linda Gantt, a registered nurse, said she's still deciding between Hillary Clinton and Obama. She chastised the media for saying black women are particularly torn.
Gantt: We can differentiate between the candidates positions, as opposed to picking a president based on race or gender.
Stoltze: Edward Jordan loves Bill Clinton. The real estate attorney was glad to see him visit his church, especially after some of the racially charged comments by the former president and his wife.
Edward Jordan: I don't really use the term race card, but did I not like it, did I think it was off color? Sure.
Stoltze: Jordan's voting for Obama. Wendy Smith works in marketing. She's been sorting through campaign literature. She still hasn't made up her mind.
Wendy Smith: I was up at three o'clock this morning reading over my campaign, yes! Yeah, I'm a little extremist. But yeha, I was reading some more.
Stoltze: Smith says she usually votes by mail, weeks in advance. Not this year.
Brian Watt: I'm Brian Watt outside the West Angeles Church of God in Christ on Crenshaw Boulevard. This was one of the congregations the former president didn't visit, and the trend among likely voters here was moving decidedly against another Clinton in the White House.
Walter Largent: At this time, I'm gonna change my mind from Clinton to Obama. And I'm going to vote for Obama, as well as my family.
Watt: Seventy-seven-year-old Walter Largent lives in South L.A. and teaches adult education classes in Compton. He, his son, and his three daughters have done a lot of talking recently about the Democratic nominees.
Largent: Mrs. Clinton, I think, I have nothing against her, but I think it's time for Obama to become president.
Watt: Forty-nine year old Carole Michaux also attended the early service at West Angeles and, like Walter Largent, she's picked Obama. The human resources rep for the Salvation Army lives in Westchester, but she grew up in Chicago. That had her leaning Obama's way for a while. She said his resolve in recent weeks really solidified her support.
Carole Michaux: After all the hoopla at the first few primaries, he's had a very strong sense of the direction he wants to take, which is a good direction.
Watt: By "hoopla," Michaux meant the sharpened attacks she believed Senator Obama had endured from Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Michaux: When he got past all the political games that they were playing, and went to the issues, and that's when I made my decision, is when I started hearing how he felt about all the issues.
Watt: There were too many churches for any campaign to reach, but that didn't mean people weren't thinking and talking about politics. At St. Bernadette Catholic Church in the Baldwin Hills area, 27 year old Letif Leffall said he'd been leaning toward Hillary Clinton because he's a big fan of her husband.
Letif Leffall: I definitely looked at her candidacy as an extension of his presidency, but at this point, I really feel like Obama might be a better choice, just for the fact that he's coming with a little bit of something new.
Watt: Most voters in this unscientific survey acknowledged that Hillary Clinton's also a good candidate. And if she wins her party's nomination, most said they'd support her in November's general election.