Dan Walters: CA may be GOP’s presidential showdown

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Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 8:02 AM

Likewise, it’s still possible that Trump will have the nomination in the bag by then, making California, once again, a nonfactor in the presidential nomination process.

Dan Walters: CA may be GOP’s presidential showdown

Could California, with its wealthy trove of Republican delegates, give billionaire Donald Trump his final thrust to the GOP presidential nomination?

Could it be where Ted Cruz and John Kasich capture sufficient delegates to deny Trump a first-ballot nomination victory?

Either scenario is possible with nine weeks remaining before the June seven primary election.

Likewise, it’s still possible that Trump will have the nomination in the bag by then, making California, once again, a nonfactor in the presidential nomination process.

A recent USC/LA Times poll has Trump and Cruz virtually tied among California’s likely Republican voters with Kasich a distant third, but thanks to something that happened nearly two decades ago, statewide voter sentiment means tiny in who wins California’s GOP delegates.

For many years, the CA Republican Party had a winner-take-all presidential primary, largely because former Gov. Ronald Reagan was challenging then-President Gerald Ford in one thousand nine hundred seventy-sixth and wanted to ensure that he’d obtain all of California’s delegate votes as a formidable base.

Republican activist Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential FlashReport, wrote recently that the CA GOP shifted to awarding delegates by congressional district sixteen years ago, taking effect only after George W. Bush had won the state’s two thousand primary on his way to the White House.

Only registered Republicans can vote in the state’s primary, and all but thirteen of the state’s one hundred seventy-two GOP delegates are awarded by congressional district – three for each of the fifty-three districts. The statewide winner gets a 10-delegate bonus and the three remaining delegates are the state party chair and two national committee members.

Instead of one statewide race, therefore, CA will have fifty-three mini-races, which will keep a premium on turnout and local organizational strength. And the most fascinating of those local contests will be in congressional districts dominated by Democrats with relatively few GOP voters to influence.

Number matter how many Republican voters a congressional district has, its winner will obtain three delegate votes. From an organizational standpoint, it’s much easier to reach and influence the few voters in a strongly Democratic district in Oakland or central LA than it's in a heavily Republican district in Orange County or Placer County.

Republican strategist Arnold Steinberg also notes that the mail voting will start weeks before election day, which also favors candidates with powerful get-out-the-vote organizations.

So far, it appears that Cruz has a head start on Trump and Kasich in the CA ground game, but if Trump comes to CA with a head of steam from other states, momentum could be a powerful factor.

Another factor is how anti-Trump groups, of which there are many, react when he campaigns in California. As Steinberg notes, if he’s met with heckling by work unions, women’s rights and homosexual rights groups, it'll energize his base to turn out.

Of course, the liberal activists who condemn the bombastic billionaire as a threat to civilization hope he's the Republican nominee, rather than a less controversial candidate such as Cruz, because Trump is widely seen as the weakest GOP foe. Therefore, they can simultaneously have fun baiting him and helping him win California’s delegates and the party nomination.

CA hasn’t been in this position before, so any scenario is possible.

 

 

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