Cox and Allen both want Donald Trump to stump for them.
“I would love to have the endorsement of the president,” Cox told Times of San Diego on Saturday.
Like the president to campaign for you?
“Absolutely,” Cox said. “He’s a businessman who’s achieved results.”
Minutes later, Orange County Assemblyman Allen was asked if he’d like Trump’s explicit endorsement and a campaign visit.
“Absolutely,” Allen said. “Come on down to California.”
But don’t expect the Republican rivals to share a stage with the commander-in-chief. Instead, they’ll take turns Tuesday in San Jose as part of a live-aired gubernatorial debate moderated by NBC’s Chuck Todd.
At various stops Saturday at the San Diego Sheraton on Harbor Island, Cox and Allen pitched their visions as they sought a coveted No. 2 spot in a November runoff.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat from San Francisco, is the front-runner, according to polls and the Republican challengers themselves.
Like their affection for Trump, Allen and Cox both claim a lead in the polls.
“I’m rising in the polls,” said Chicago-born Cox, 62, “and every single poll has showed me gaining on him as people find out that there’s a businessman running for governor.”
Said San Diego-born Allen, 44: “We just released a poll that shows us in the lead position. We are the top Republican in the race.”
Allen cited results of a Big Data Poll — run by Tea Party pundit Richard Baris of Florida — that gave him a fractional 11.8 to 11.2 percent lead over Cox. (The May 4 poll put Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ahead, 23.9 percent to 13.5 percent, respectively, with a 3 percent margin of error.)
Cox has been crowing about his own results.
A Public Policy Institute of California survey March 21 showed him second to Newsom — 28 percent to 14 percent — with Villaraigosa and Allen at 12 and 10 percent. But a Survey USA poll released April 24 shows Newsom (21 percent), Villaraigosa (18 percent) and Cox (15 percent). The Berkeley IGS poll dated April 26 has Newsom at 30 percent, Cox at 18 percent and Allen at 16 percent.
On Sunday morning, delegates among the 1,000 registered attendees of the convention will use electronic devices to vote on state GOP endorsements. Sixty percent approval is needed to gain the party’s backing.
So Cox and Allen made the rounds of various caucus meetings to make their case. The elder candidate visited the Log Cabin Republicans — LGBT conservatives that included North County’s Gina Roberts, the vice chair.
“This campaign is now No. 2 in the polls,” Cox said in his 4-minute remarks. “And that’s real important. We have a real chance to take this state back.”
White-haired Cox said he believed in a big tent with all Republicans being able to “have their voice.”
Along with several other candidates, he noted family connections to the LGBT community.
“You should know that I have a sister who is gay,” Cox said. “So I have a very welcoming attitude.”
He repeated some of what he’d said an hour earlier at a gathering of 600 in the tented Pavilion ballroom.
“I believe the people of this state are ready to revolt,” Cox said. “They know that this state is now 50 out of 50 in quality of life. …. What we need to do is come out of this convention united. .. We need to be strong. The Democrats are divided.”
Allen didn’t take a turn wooing the Log Cabin Republicans, but had plenty to say in an interview with Times of San Diego.
“Look, I’m telling you right now that the only support John Cox has is the support he’s bought,” Allen said.
“John Cox has been spreading lies. This is how Chicago politics works. This is why he’s never won a race. He ran for president of the United States, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, even county clerk/reporter and he lost every single race.”
Allen said Cox moved to California as a permanent resident only in 2011 and didn’t vote in 2014, “and when he did vote in 2016, [he] refused to support the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump. He’s a Never-Trumper.”
The Huntington Beach Assembly member — who boasted of helping set a world record for the most people riding a single surfboard — said he once talked to Trump briefly before Allen announced for governor, and wrote newspaper columns in support of the GOP hopeful.
“I will tell you right now, unequivocally — Donald Trump has been phenomenal for this country,” Allen said. “With cutting taxes for every single American, he’s created over $8 trillion of wealth. And this is irrefutable.”
Allen said Cox, who backed Libertarian president candidate Gary Johnson in 2016, has flip-flopped on a border wall.
“As recently as this year, to Univision, he told them he was not in favor of wall. … The record is very clear. John Cox will tell any audience what he thinks they want him to hear in a bid to win, finally, an office.”
At his Pavilion talk, Cox said: “You know, this isn’t going to be easy. The media is not our friend. But the Democrats are helping. They’ve gone way over to the left. They’ve opened up the middle for us.”
Saying Democrats have made California “virtually unaffordable for working people,” Cox labeled them the Thelma and Louise Party … driving off the liberal cliff holding hands with Bernie Sanders.”
In a brief interview, Cox was asked what his old friend Jack Kemp (the former Chargers quarterback turned congressman) would say about Donald Trump — and whether the president is a drag on the GOP vote this year.
“I have no idea,” Cox said. “But Donald Trump is not on the ballot in California in 2018.”
On the view that 2018 midterms will be a referendum on Trump, Cox said: “I don’t think so. The people of California care about housing. They care about affordable lifestyles. They care about how high their gas tax is. They care about the sanctuary state, which is sheltering illegal alien criminals.”