Yes, you are reading the headline correctly. The Republican presidential candidate in 2008 can and should fight for the wacko Golden State of California. Oh, not necessarily to win outright but to force the Democrat candidate to spend time and money and away from trying to take a Republican state like, maybe, Ohio or Florida and holding all their blue states.
Now, the statistics are daunting for the Republicans to try to make the race interesting here in the Golden State. The Democrats have won the last four presidential elections here, starting with former president William Jefferson Blythe Clinton to Al Gore to John Kerry. The Golden State is nothing but a cash cow for both parties. Other than fund raisers, neither party candidates spend time here.
But, there are two things that can change the dynamic and if neither comes to pass, it still is time for the Republicans to make a serious challenge here in California.
For one, the presidential primary will be on February 5, 2008. It was moved up from June to have some impact on who the parties nominate for president. On the same date will be a ballot initiative that will change the way the electoral college votes here are distributed.
In the past the winner of the state took all 55 electoral votes. If the initiative passes, it will make a two-tier distribution. Two votes are automatic to the winner of the most votes in the state. But, the other 53 will go by the winner of the congressional district. Thus, the Republicans would possibly win 22 or as many as 25 electoral votes. That would offset a possible loss of Ohio or Florida. It would make both parties have to spend time here. The Democrats hate it, the Republicans are, correctly, looking at a real way to make California relevant in the election itself. Two other states, Maine and Nebraska have a similar system and it has worked fine.
Even if the initiative does not win, there are demographic reasons why the Republicans need to make a serious effort.
The Democrats strength is in two areas of the state. The nine Bay Area counties, led by Alameda (Oakland) and San Francisco, and Los Angeles county. California is like two totally different states. Most of the coastal counties are Democrat or Democrat leaning. Sure, there are some Republican pockets like San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Mecca to the GOP, Orange and San Diego counties, but it is mostly liberal and Democrat country.
On the other hand, the Republican strength is like a spine down the middle of the state. From Northern California to the Mexican border is the Republican stronghold. These are growing counties with wide suburban and exburban area, ripe for the Republican picking. And here the other way are some Democrat pockets like Sacramento in the north and much smaller Imperial county in the south, but by and large, the fastest growing area in this state is in the Republican spine.
How do these Republican voters get excited if the election is already in the bag for the other side?
The conventional wisdom is there are six to maybe eight states in play for either side. The Democrats would love Colorado, Virginia or maybe Florida or Ohio. The Republicans would love Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
My thought, the switches will be less than those states. Maybe New Mexico goes back to the Democrats and New Hampshire to the Republicans. Look at Nevada as a possible swing state.
Ohio is a swing state, but will lean to the Republicans. Forget the Dems taking Florida. It is still a reliable Republican state. Virginia will stay Republican, as well as Colorado, but marginally.
Minnesota is a swing state despite the huge gains made in 2006 by the Democrats. Michigan will go GOP if Romney is the nominee. Wisconsin will be a huge catch for the Republicans, if they can keep the votes relatively honest in Milwaukee.
So, both parties may have to think out of the box. The Republicans can do worse than looking at California to build strength if not in 2008, maybe 2012. Forget New York. If Sen. Hilary Clinton is the nominee, she could take 70% of the vote without a blink. Pennsylvania is a lock for the Dems.
I think that the Republicans are going to have to go for broke this presidential election and making a play for California is one way to do it. Anything to drain the Democrat bank account and candidate time is worth it.