California in Spotlight at GOP Debate at Reagan Library

The second GOP debate of the 2016 presidential election takes place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley Wednesday evening–and, as in past debates, California will share a spot onstage with the contenders.

In 2008, moderators asked the Republican candidates whether the rest of the country should follow Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lead and implement tough new environmental regulations on carbon dioxide emissions. (Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas quipped that if Schwarzenegger was right, “every other state is going to copy him. And if he’s wrong, every other state is going to recruit the jobs that he lost in California to their own states.”)

In 2011, California was not mentioned directly, but the candidates discussed the border fence in San Diego, as immigration policy continued to be a major issue in the debate–as it was in 2008, and as it remains today. (Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts said that the country should not only build a fence along the border, but should end sanctuary cities, stop employers from hiring illegal aliens, and help legal immigrants waiting in line.)

The political circumstances, of course, are far different. In 2008, Romney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were the dueling front-runners, as Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) fought for attention. In 2011, newcomer Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was the frontrunner that other candidates tried to drag down: “I kind of feel like the pinata here at the party,” he joked.

On Wednesday night, that piñata will be Donald Trump. But Californian Carly Fiorina, who has been promoted to the main stage, will also be under scrutiny.

And with wildfires in the news, and California Gov. Jerry Brown still a possible dark horse in the Democratic primary, the Golden State will be a hot topic.


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