California, with its 54 electoral votes, is critical to Bill Clinton's hopes for reelection in 1996. So in addition to plying the state with Presidential visits, earthquake relief money, and defense-conversion funds, the White House is starting to gear up its political operations to again carry a state that Clinton won handily in 1992. John Emerson, who ran that California campaign, is moving from his job as an aide to Presidential counselor Bruce Lindsey to the White House political office. He'll handle economic-development issues, with a special focus on the Golden State. Emerson, who started in the Administration as deputy head of the White House personnel office, will work closely with Tom Epstein, who manages the Western states portfolio. Now, there'll be two top political aides focusing on California.