LOS ANGELES—As California Republicans arrived here at the JW Marriott Hotel for their fall convention Sept. 16 to 18, it was easy to understand their enthusiasm about actually putting the Golden State’s 55 electoral votes in the GOP column for the first time since 1988.
Days before the convention opened, the latest Field Poll showed President Obama’s approval ratings among likely voters statewide at 46%—down from 54% in the same poll three months ago, and in fact, an all-time low for Obama in California since he became President. (The same survey showed 44% of Californians disapproved of his performance).
Field also showed that in the same three-month period, Obama’s approval dropped 10 percentage points among California Democrats and 13 percentage points among “Declined to State” (independent) voters in the state.
So, in spite of nearly a quarter-century of Democrats handily winning the electoral votes of the nation’s largest state, and their hefty voter registration edge of over Republicans (43% to 31%), state GOP leaders were almost universally upbeat about their eventual nominee carrying California against Obama next year.
“There’s no question California’s in play,” state party Vice Chairman and Orange County attorney Steve Baric told HUMAN EVENTS, adding that the same anti-Obama sentiments that fueled Republican Bob Turner’s recent win in New York’s 9th U.S. House District were now at work and growing among California voters.
“There is a perception here that Obama blames everyone else when things go wrong on the economy,” said state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro. “[Obama] is quoted in ’08 as saying that the question of when life begins is ‘above my pay grade.’ Well, the question of dealing with the economy should never be above any President’s pay grade, and voters are beginning to perceive this President is in over his head on dealing with an economic crisis that will only get worse over the next year.”
Del Beccaro predicted to HUMAN EVENTS that another Democrat would be an anchor on Obama’s chances in California: Gov. Jerry Brown.
“After trying to raise taxes when other Democrats such as [New York Gov.] Andrew Cuomo say we can’t raise taxes in these times, Jerry Brown symbolizes what is wrong with the Democratic Party today,” said Del Beccaro, a vigorous critic of the governor who was known as an independent thinker within his party in the 1970s. “There’s a growing question as to what Jerry Brown stands for.”
Del Beccaro went on to point out that in recent elections, Republican assaults on Democratic candidates over issues such as taxes and spending were blunted by liberal Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who agreed with most of their nonconservative stands. But with Democrat Brown now in Sacramento and state unemployment now at 12%, he said, “it is easier to point out our differences with the Democrats.”
The Republican chairman freely acknowledged his party has had some problems with certain voter groups in California, notably Hispanic Americans. But, Del Beccaro quickly added, “This is changing.” He noted that the state’s Central Valley, the most economically distressed area and one with a high Hispanic American population, also has the highest number of voter re-registrations to the GOP in California.
In addition, Del Beccaro announced plans to host a town hall meeting on jobs with Hispanic community leaders during the party convention. He also announced that the convention on today would highlight California’s Republican elected officials from its rapidly growing Asian community, among them state Board of Equalization member Michelle Park Steel (the highest elected Asian-American Republican in the nation).
Other reporters pointed out that, Obama’s weak numbers in the Field Poll notwithstanding, Field also showed him defeating Texas Gov. Rick Perry by a 9 percentage point margin statewide, and Mitt Romney by 12 percentage points statewide.
“And he carried California over John McCain by 22 points in ’08,” shot back Del Beccaro. “So the Republicans are starting the ’12 campaign here in a much stronger position. And the air will come out of the Democratic base very quickly this time.”