California should have had a more prominent role in the presidential debate. President Donald Trump has been using California as an example of all the things that would go work for the country if Joe Biden is elected. Biden’s argument is that following California policies is the way to improve what is wrong under Trump. There is even a Californian on the Democratic ticket in Senator Kamala Harris. California was the only state in the union that could be used by the two rivals as either a weapon or a shield in this first, contentious, presidential debate but the state only showed up—briefly—during the last 15 minutes of the hour-and-a-half debate.

That’s when Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, wanted to talk about climate change. He referred to the forest fires in the west and said to President Trump that state officials identified climate change as a culprit in the fires. Trump responded, “they don’t know.”

California was mentioned by name soon after when the president said he gets calls when California is burning. He argued forest management is needed to control the fires, and in an aside he said he was “getting along well” with Governor Gavin Newsom.

California’s stance on cars, fuel economy and electric vehicles was part of the climate change segment of the debate. Moderator Wallace tried to ask a question dealing with California but was talked over by Trump. However, the president heard him because he concluded his remarks by saying, “California is just crazy.” We’ll presume he was thinking about Gov. Newsom’s recent executive order to do away with gas powered vehicles.

You would think California would have played a larger role as a target and as an example.

Trump has been using California as a case in point of everything that is wrong with left-wing Democratic rule. He has attacked the state over wildfires, power blackouts, water mismanagement, homelessness, violence, drugs, high taxes and takes pleasure in excoriating well-known California politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff.

California’s only appearance on these lines is when the president referred to violence in Oakland.

The tweeting president may have used California as a foil probably more than any other place. A year ago the Los Angeles Times compiled 219 tweets the president aimed at the state and there have been more since then.

California in turn has sued the president and his administration 100 times over policy.

Former vice-president Biden could take the opportunity to attach himself to California to buttress his progressive credentials. He had ducked the California Democratic Party conventions during the primary season to keep the progressives at arms-length and avoid any difficult or embarrassing moment for his campaign. But now he wants to rally doubting progressives to his side and embracing California was a way of doing so. But he did not use the state’s reputation for that purpose and seemed to go out of his way not to be labeled as a progressive during the debate. Maybe that’s why he did not bring up California.

California as a symbol took more of a backseat than a seat in the front row in this presidential debate.