- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hillary Clinton says she’s going to fight for every vote in California’s June primary, but she’s also looking ahead to the November election.

The former first lady and Bernie Sanders have contests in more than a dozen states to come, but Clinton told reporters in Los Angeles on Thursday that “it’s important to get ready and organized for the fall election.”

Her nod to November comes at a time when she has started to target sharp critiques largely at Donald Trump and other Republicans, while sidestepping the scrum with Sanders.

That was again the case Thursday at the University of Southern California, where she warned of the dangers of “hot rhetoric and demagoguery” at a round-table discussion on keeping communities safe from radicalization and terrorism. The remarks echoed criticism she made a day earlier of GOP presidential front-runner Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Dividing us, engaging in hateful, discriminatory rhetoric, does not work,” she told reporters. “It plays into the hands of the terrorists. And I am not about to do anything that does that.”

Clinton and Sanders each made appearances in the state this week, as part of the run-up to the state’s June 7 primary. Speaking at USC, Clinton said she intended to “work as hard as I possibly can to do well here, reaching out to every part of the state, every voter in it.”

Sanders, appearing Wednesday before a throng of cheering, mostly younger supporters at a Los Angeles theater, promised he’ll win California if he gets a big turnout.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday suggested the Democratic contest is tightening. Clinton notched 48 percent among likely voters - Democrats and independents who can vote in the party’s primary election. Sanders, who last year registered in single digits in independent polls, was pegged at 41 percent.

A close outcome in California would favor Clinton because Sanders is running out of time to catch up in the delegate race and needs a commanding victory. Clinton carried the state in the 2008 Democratic primary, over then-Sen. Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Clinton won in Arizona, maintaining a lopsided advantage over Sanders in the Democratic race despite his wins in Utah and Idaho on the same night. She has a 300-delegate lead over the Vermont senator.

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