GOP Poised for Surge in California

Monday, 07 Jun 2010 08:23 PM

By David A. Patten

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GOP leaders in California believe they can ride the momentum from Tuesday's primary all the way to victory in November, perhaps triggering a political resurgence for Republicans in the Golden State in the process.

One reason for their optimism: Recent voter registration trends that show a sharp uptick for the GOP after a prolonged decline.

"I think much of it has been generated from what you see in Washington, where Barack Obama and the Democrats have chosen not to govern from the center but rather from their own party's left," the chairman of California's Republican Party, Ron Nehring, tells Newsmax. "That's clearly driving the discussion right now in California, and in every other state."

"If you look most recent data within the past 140 days," Nehring says, "Republican registrations rose by 28,359, while Democratic registrations gained only 7,492."

There are several other indicators of newfound GOP strength in deep blue California. Surveys of voter enthusiasm and intensity point to a Republican advantage.

More important than the numbers, perhaps, are the candidates: The surging candidacies of gubernatorial challenger Meg Whitman and Senate challenger Carly Fiorina, combined with an aggressive GOP voter registration campaign and political shifts occurring on the national level, are fueling speculation that Tuesday's elections could have a lasting political impact in California.

National political experts see an opportunity ahead for California Republicans as well.

"Whitman and Fiorina have two qualities that make the hearts of GOP leaders flutter," University of Virginia Center for Politics director Larry J. Sabato tells Newsmax. "They are self-funders who can spend big, and they have a hook – gender -- that attracts the news media and prods voters to reconsider their stereotype of Republicans.

"The midterm year ought to be a GOP-leaning year," he adds. "That gives Republicans a chance even in deep blue states like California. The party will be very disappointed if at least one of these women doesn’t make a breakthrough in November."

Bolstered by extensive television advertising, Whitman and Fiorina have established commanding, double-digit leads over their nearest GOP rivals.

A recent Field Poll shows Whitman, the former eBay CEO, leading high-tech entrepreneur Steve Poizner, the state's insurance commissioner, by 51 percent to 25 percent.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, actually trailed the five-term GOP Rep. Tom Campbell by 5 points in January. But now she holds a strong double-digit lead, 37 percent to 22 percent, according to Field.

Chuck DeVore, a favorite of California's tea party activists, is polling just behind Campbell, at 19 percent.

If the polls prove accurate and Whitman and Fiorina cruise to victory Tuesday, they will offer California voters a formidable one-two punch with remarkable business credentials untainted by Washington politics. In an election cycle dominated by anti-incumbent fervor, that could prove decisive.

In the general election, Whitman if nominated would square off against Democratic insider and former Gov. Jerry Brown. Fiorina would be expected to mount a strong challenge to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Those match-ups have GOP leaders in California salivating over the November campaign.

"I see that Democrats are relying upon old-style, outmoded, hard-core liberal careerists," says Nehring. "Versus Republicans, who are putting forward leaders who have a proven record of success and a proven understanding of what it takes to create jobs and manage an organization. That's a very stark contrast."

Anecdotally, California Republicans tell Newsmax their offices are receiving an unusual number of calls from Democrats who want to switch parties. They report that Republicans are submitting early ballots by mail in disproportionate numbers – often seen as a measure of voter enthusiasm prior to Election Day.

"Many more Republicans than Democrats are indicating they are certain to vote in November. The world is run by those who show up, not by those who register to show up," Nehring says.

Yet another factor that could point to a Republican resurgence in California: The swelling rolls of independent voters in the Golden State. They now comprise about 20 percent of the electorate, up from 18 percent in 2006.

Recent Rasmussen national polls show that among voters not affiliated with either major party, 42 percent now lean Republican on generic party ballots. That compares to just 18 percent who think they're more likely to vote for a Democrat. A rising number of independents in California would appear to bode well for the GOP in November.

"I think the morale of Republicans across the country is sky high," commentator and author Wayne Allyn Root tells Newsmax. "Speaking purely as an analyst, I predict everything is in motion for a gigantic, historic Republican victory in November."

Of course, California Republicans know they will need every bit of their newfound enthusiasm to win in November. Democratic voter registrations outnumber Republican registrations by 44.57 percent and 30.79 percent, a gap that has widened significantly since 2006.

Encouraged by strong indicators and strong candidates, however, California Republican leaders are looking forward to Tuesday's primary results -- and to November.

Says Nehring: "The wind is at our backs."

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