Wednesday, June 9, 2010

44.5-30.8%: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina's Problem in California

44.5-30.8%: The GOP’s Problem in California

This is the year for the resurrection of the California Republican Party. If not this year, then when? If not this year, then the California Republican Party will continue a descend into irrelevancy.

The state economy is in the tank, with California doing its best to catch Michigan with the nation’s largest unemployment rate. The state’s credit rating is the lowest of all the states; it took several years, but California finally surpassed Louisiana. California is borrowing record sums, driving up interest rates and running into the problem of compound interest on the state budget.

K-12 education is struggling in many areas, and failing in several, while the world’s greatest higher education system is being starved financially.

California residents are fleeing the Golden State. A net 144,000 emigrated out of California in the year ending July 1, 2008. The estimate is that over 800,000 California Citizens have taken up residence in other states in recent years. The emigrants are employers, entrepreneurs, millionaires, retirees, and soon the young college grads. Even high tech jobs are shrinking in California. Cisco said it will not build another facility in California.

The state is living off the infrastructure (highways, schools, water distribution, power generation) built over 40 years ago by Governor Pat Brown in cooperation with Assembly Speaker, Jesse Unruh.

The state legislature has even lower ratings that the Governor, who has the lowest ratings of any governor. The good news for the Democrats is that Governor Schwarzenegger is nominally a Republican, thereby providing them political cover on their tax increases.

The odds are against the Republicans even this year. The challenge is daunting because of a built in registration advantage for Democrats. The Republican base in California has been dispirited, dying, or emigrating out of the state.

The current Republican registration in California is down to 30.8% from 34.4% from 4 years ago. The historical base for the GOP over the past 11 years has been 34-35%.
Democrats though are up to 44.5%, while “decline to state” (independents) are up to 20.2% The Democratic base had been declining from 46.7% in 1999, but has been rising in recent years.

The difference in party registrations favors the Democrats by 2,324,789 voters. That is a large hole for the Republicans to fill.

If democrats hold onto their base, and grab a few independents, they should win.

The Republicans have to hold their base, win almost every independent, attract Democratic crossovers, maximize the Republican turnout, and minimize the Democratic turnout.

It’s doable. I’ve seen an even greater gap overcome in Massachusetts in 1982 when Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis almost bankrupted the state, Republicans captured the governorship for 16 years, and even elected 2 Republicans to Congress in the erstwhile “People’s Republic of Massachusetts” or “Taxachusetts.”

It can be done in California, but defeating Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer will be difficult. The raw numbers favor them, and labor will pour money into the campaigns, although Meg Whitman may be willing to pour $150 million of her own money into the campaign.

Senator Boxer may, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, “display less intellectual firepower and leadership than she could,” but she knows how to run a campaign, down and dirty if necessary.

The GOP, to be successful in November, needs to win the senate seat, governorship, attorney generalship, at least one other statewide position, several legislative seats, and a couple of Congressional seats.

Doable, but probably only in a national landslide for the GOP.

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