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Walker’s Lead in California: Why It Might Matter

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As Breitbart California reported this morning, a new survey of 600 likely California 2016 Republican primary voters shows that when presented with a lengthy list of potential GOP presidential contenders, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker comes out on top with a healthy 20% of the vote.

Behind him, nearly tied, are surgeon and author Ben Carson and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, at 10% each. Notably, Carly Fiorina, a former head of Hewlett Packard and former GOP U.S. Senate nominee in California, enjoys a scant 1.7% support.

The survey was commissioned by California Political Review and its publisher, respected conservative leader James Lacy, and conducted by the reputable pollsters NSON out of Utah. You can dig into most detailed data, crosstabs and poll questions here.

Of course you may be reading this and asking yourself, “California? Who cares how well these candidates are doing in such a blue state?”

If someone is able to clinch the nomination in the early or middle stages of the primary–perhaps California will not matter much. But with no incumbent or natural strong front-runner at this stage, here is why California, even with its late primary in early June, could still matter.

“There will likely be a total of 2,461 delegates at the 2016 GOP Convention. California should be allotted 172 of those delegates, about 7% of the total. Of California’s delegates, 10 are awarded to the candidate who wins the statewide vote,” says Jim Lacy in his analysis.

He goes on to say: “In addition, a candidate who finishes first in any one of California’s 53 Congressional districts is awarded 3 delegates. The state party chairman and two national committee members are also delegates.

“The winning margin at the Republican National Convention will be 1,230 delegates. Theoretically, a candidate who could sweep California’s Republican Presidential primary election could count on the state to deliver just over 14% of the total delegates needed for victory.”

Bottom line: The California delegation at the RNC nominating convention will be really, really big.

Unlike other partisan races in California, where June contests are open to voters of all political persuasions (following the passage a few years ago of Proposition 14, the so-called “open primary” ballot measure), presidential primary voting for Republicans is open to registered party members only.

Even with limited resources available for such a late-voting state, it will be prudent for contenders looking at the long road to the nomination to be concerned with a California campaign and infrastructure.

The need for a ground game in this traditionally television-dominated state came about because of a reform of California Republican Party Rules that took place fifteen years ago, when then-State Chairman John McGraw and then-State Senator Ray Haynes championed a new “Winner Take All By District” system. Essentially, it means that whichever candidate wins the plurality of the vote in each of California’s 53 U.S. House Districts will be awarded the three delegates from that district. In addition, a small number of statewide delegates will all go to the winner of the plurality of the statewide GOP vote.

“It was a real kick to attend the 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis as a Romney delegate, even though McCain won California,” former State GOP Vice Chairman Steve Baric told me. Romney won the Orange County-centered U.S. House seat where Baric lived, even though McCain’s statewide vote was 42% to Romney’s 34%. And this was without any meaningful voter-contact taking place in the state (McCain had sewn up the nomination).

These rules mean that candidates do not have to approach California as a huge, monolithic and prohibitively expensive place in which to campaign. Candidates can campaign regionally, or even micro-target specific Congressional Districts.

Our very blue state has a vast number of very liberal seats where the number of voting Republicans is, frankly, miniscule. But these small voting universes of GOP voters in Democratic strongholds will decide the fate of three delegates to the RNC convention.

When I say miniscule turnout–let me throw out some examples. In the Los Angeles district of Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA), 6,103 Republicans voted in the GOP Presidential primary, and in the San Francisco district of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi there were 9,965 GOP votes cast.

Perhaps Rand Paul has made inroads already in the GOP-lite 13th Congressional District of Rep. Barbara Lee, which includes U.C. Berkeley, where the Kentucky Senator spoke last year and was received enthusiastically. In that seat, only 11,449 Republicans voted in the GOP Presidential primary in 2012.

While it is early yet in the GOP presidential primary race, it would behoove smart candidates to start organizing early in California. A smart candidate will be sure to have a volunteer campaign chairman in each of California’s congressional districts.

I understand that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will be in California next week. Wonder if he’s thought about his South-Central Los Angeles campaign strategy?


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