With control of Congress on the line, former Vice President Joe Biden urged support Thursday for Democratic candidates in a string of California districts to regain control of the House and help "take this president on."
With a densely packed crowd chanting "Take it back," a reference to the GOP-held House, Biden spent about 50 minutes denouncing Trump administration policies and calling for a return of civility and mutual respect in Washington.
With the election looming, he said the nation was witnessing a fight for its soul.
"This election is much bigger than politics," Biden said at a rally at California State University, Fullerton, where the audience was thick with students. "Our humanity is being tested."
The potential Democratic presidential contender in 2020 has been using his political star power to help candidates and raise money around the country. He has predicted that Democrats will control both chambers of Congress next year.
In a state where Trump is unpopular, Democrats are hoping to seize a string of GOP-held House districts that Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election. Trump lost the election in the nation's most populous state by over 4 million votes.
Before Biden took the stage, Democratic candidates in Republican-held districts took turns railing against the Trump administration and their opponents' policies. They urged volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls to help Democrats seize at least 23 seats in the House, the number needed to gain control.
TJ Cox, running to unseat Republican Rep. David Valadao in the state's agricultural heartland, lamented the 21st District's high unemployment and Trump proposals that he said could leave 60,000 residents there without health care coverage.
"In the Central Valley, life is hard enough without our representative working against us," he said, referring to Valadao.
Harley Rouda, who is challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the 48th District, denounced the incumbent as a climate change skeptic who is bankrolled by corporate interests. He urged volunteers to work tirelessly until Election Day
"Do not look back and say, 'Gosh, I wish I had done more,' " Rouda said.
Four of the candidates who appeared at the rally are vying for seats in districts that are all or partly in Orange County. They are Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, Rouda and Mike Levin.
All five races are all seen as competitive. Republicans, meanwhile, have been spending millions of dollars on advertising to defend their turf.
In the background was the upcoming vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and California's longstanding conflict with the Trump White House.
Biden talked at length about the struggling middle class and growing economic uncertainty — and a White House that he said was indifferent to it all. He said the nation needed to reset its moral compass, at home and abroad.
Republicans have been losing ground in California for years. Democrats hold every statewide office, control both chambers of the Legislature and hold a 3.7 million edge in voter registrations over the GOP. Independents also outnumber GOP voters, and Democrats hold a 39-14 advantage in House seats.
Democrats see the California seats as critical to their plans to take control of Congress next year.
Orange County was long seen as a Republican stronghold, but Clinton carried the county in 2016, the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since 1936.
Cisneros, running in the 39th District against Republican Young Kim, promised to end years of GOP dominance in the county.
"With your help, we are going to bring down this Orange Curtain," he said, referring to a nickname that refers to the county's longtime Republican power base.
Meanwhile, Trump reiterated his support for a Republican House candidate in a tough race in the San Diego area. The president's campaign issued a statement in support of Diane Harkey, who is dueling with Levin in the coastal 49th District. The seat is held by retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.
Trump's campaign said she would be a "great supporter" of his agenda. The president also endorsed Harkey in a tweet in August.