OXNARD, Calif. — Most of Albert Magana’s friends are evenly split between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his social-media feed.
The lopsided public support for Sanders has taken a toll: He noticed that a few friends have gone over to the other side and now support Sanders over Clinton.
“On social networks, you see a lot more Bernie support,” said Magana, 26, who supports Clinton. “A lot of the social networking posts reinforce this idea that she’s not trustworthy. They think she’s hiding something.”
By supporting Clinton, Magana, who is Latino, feels like he is swimming against the tide. Just as young voters in general have overwhelmingly flocked to Sanders, younger Latinos have also expressed more of a willingness to back the senator from Vermont, even while their parents lean toward Clinton.
In a state like California, that trend is an acute problem for Clinton. The state’s 15 million Latinos are about a third of the Democratic electorate, and they are much more likely than any other minority group to be younger – prime targets for Sanders’s message. The median age for Latinos is 27, compared with 34 for blacks and 43 for whites, according to the Census bureau.
It also foreshadows a weakness that could haunt her in the general election when Clinton will probably need to mobilize the growing Democratic constituency to help her defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, businessman Donald Trump.
Clinton has spent most of her time campaigning in California without mentioning Sanders, but that has begun to change in recent days as the race has gotten closer.
Several recent polls show Sanders within two points of Clinton. In response to the growing pressure, Clinton has returned to critiquing Sanders over his past opposition to immigration reform legislation.
“It is true we got close to immigration reform,” Clinton said in Los Angeles, recalling a 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill that failed when she, Sanders and President Barack Obama were in the Senate. “President Obama and I voted for it, and Sen. Sanders voted against it.”
“It was heartbreaking,” she added, referring to the bill’s failure.
Sanders has explained the vote by saying he voted against the legislation because it did not sufficiently protect farmworkers.
But her allies also think that younger Latinos are not fully aware of Clinton’s past work on immigration issues, including registering voters in Texas, working with the families of farmworkers as a teen and advocating for immigration reform legislation in the Senate.
“Immigration is at the center of this presidential campaign,” Clinton said at Mission College as she sat at a lunchroom table sandwiched between two undocumented DREAMers. “This is very personal to me.”
Quietly, she began weaving a story of how she grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and through her church, volunteered to babysit the children of Latino migrant workers.
At the end of the day, a ramshackle bus carrying the workers would fly down a dirt road, and the children would run out to greet their parents.
“I remember so vividly watching that and thinking, they’re just like our family,” Clinton said. “I used to run and see my father when he came home from work. I know what that feels like.”
“I never forgot that,” Clinton added, wistfully.
Her campaign believes that the key to making inroads with Latino voters is in closing this information gap.
“It’s more just a matter of letting folks know her history,” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Clinton supporter. “I remember going to speak at UCLA, and I mentioned she’s been doing this for the longest time; they couldn’t remember.”
“For them, these are all new things,” he added.
With only three days left before the primary, Clinton is hustling to do as much outreach to California’s diverse electorate as possible. The immigration-focused event at Mission College targeted a community college campus that enrolls more than 1,200 undocumented students and is located in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Sylmar.
At the same time, Clinton has already begun a pivot to the general election, expecting that by Tuesday, she will win the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination. She probably won’t need California’s delegates to do it, but a win here would be a symbolically important moment as she closes out the primary and looks toward the general election
California’s primary is also a moment in the campaign that would expose her weaknesses or show her strength with Latinos, a key group in the Democrats’ presidential coalition.
In recent days, Clinton has sharpened her argument to Latinos about the prospect of a Trump presidency. She warned that his proposal to deport some 11 million undocumented immigrants would necessitate massive deportation raids. And she seized on his criticism of a federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who will preside over a fraud case against Trump University, and whom Trump accused of bias because of his Mexican heritage.
“He’s trying to distract people by making a prejudiced, bigoted attack on the federal judge who is hearing the case,” Clinton said. “Judge Curiel is as much of an American as I am, and he’s as much of an American as Donald Trump is.”
The searing critique of Trump that she delivered in a speech in San Diego is also a source of hope for some of her supporters.
Most of Leslie Milke’s students at Mission College are Sanders supporters, because his “tone is interesting to them,” she said.
Clinton, on the other hand, “comes across as a politician,” Milke said.
That changed Thursday, according to Milke, who said she was energized by Clinton’s energetic and relaxed verbal confrontation with Trump.
“That’s what she should be doing,” Milke, 57, said. “She was much more relaxed. She was free.”
“It was like the switch had gone off with her,” she added.
The speech was both a warning shot to Republicans and a signal to Democrats in the primaries remaining that Clinton is up for the task of challenging Trump, added Becerra.
“Everywhere I’m going to go, I’m going to tell young people to watch that speech,” Becerra said. “People want someone who’s going to fight for them. Young people want someone who they can believe in.”
“It clears the deck and makes it obvious that we have a one-on-one race now,” he added.