For the first time in memory, California Republicans have a diverse statewide slate of candidates to field this fall, a lineup their state party chairman calls "an inspirational ticket." Coupled with national momentum for conservatives, the California GOP is hoping this might be their breakthrough year.
Yet it's far from clear whether voters in California, where Democrats have a nearly 15-point voter registration advantage, will see the same glitter the GOP faithful perceive.
Their candidates have been pushing for smaller government, fewer regulations on businesses and lower taxes. Democrats have countered that the Republican Party is just promoting what it always has — a pro-business agenda that punishes the middle class and working class.
Despite their registration edge, the top Democratic candidates are working hard to retain the middle-of-the-road voters who have helped the party dominate statewide elections over the past two decades.
Republicans were buoyed at their weekend meeting in San Diego by appearances from their top candidates, gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal stalwart reviled by conservatives.
Now that their candidates are through contentious primaries, some delegates are hoping they can successfully sway those centrist voters who will be key to a November win.
"Both of them are going to have to reach out to the Latinos, independents and the decline-to-states because we need those votes," said Alice Anderson, of Dana Point. "We're hoping those people will think as we do and realize what a good team we have right now."
Republicans account for less than 31 percent of registered voters in California, compared with the Democrats' 44.5 percent. Independents are one-fifth of the electorate.
Both sides are touting polls that show the governor's race and U.S. Senate contest in dead heats; both say they show momentum is on their side.
But the GOP is hoping to catch a national tail wind that appears to be trending in favor of Republicans in the midst of a gloomy economy and falling approval ratings for President Barack Obama.
Republican Sam Blakeslee this week beat out a Democrat who promoted his endorsement from Obama in a special election for a state Senate seat along the California's central coast. Democrats have a slight registration advantage there.
"We repeatedly hear and see objective data that Democratic voters are not enthusiastic about turning out (this year)," said GOP chairman Ron Nehring. "The Democrats are going to have to spend a lot of money turning voters out that we don't have to spend because we know from research that our voters are fired up."
The party also faces no pressure to spend in the governor's race, where billionaire Whitman has already contributed $104 million of her own money to what is expected to become the most expensive statewide campaign in history.
Since the June primary, she has also assiduously courted Hispanic voters, opening an office in Hispanic East Los Angeles and airing radio and TV spots in Spanish.
But Democrats who traditionally dominate this demographic are unlikely to cede those voters or other moderates. Their party, with its strong union support, is generally known for skillful voter-turnout efforts, and this year will be no different, said Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores.
"Our greatest advantage is our network of grassroots activists across the state who are ready and eager to get to work and turn Democrats out to vote," he said.
Whitman's rival, state Attorney General Jerry Brown, also has long-standing ties to Latino groups and is getting millions in financial backing from unions this year.
Kam Kuwata, a longtime Democratic strategist who is promoting a new website on the corporate records of Whitman and Fiorina, said the leading candidates are doing well, considering the spending by their opponents this year.
"I am one that believes summertime polls are a little overrated and I think once the campaign begins and it gets to gel and people know the real records of Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, they'll reject them," he said.
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