The party faces a critical collision between its own voters, a minority in California, and those it needs to attract to win. The most faithful Republicans this year — those who voted for both Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for Senate — said by a 27-point margin that to be more successful, Republicans should nominate "true conservatives."And then there's this, which is nothing if not an I-told-you-so moment:
But among the majority of voters who spurned Whitman and Fiorina in November — and in whose good graces any future winning candidate would need to be — the results were reversed. Forty-three percent said that future Republican candidates needed to be more moderate. Only 20% said that Republicans should nominate "true conservatives."
As those figures help illustrate, the GOP's difficulties in California rest on two overlapping conflicts, ideological and demographic. The party's conservative primary voters determine nominees, even if their views are often opposite those of the far more moderate general election audience. And the party's white and conservative voter base is increasingly giving way to the state's non-white and nonpartisan population.
Marjorie Smallwood, a Democrat from Palo Alto who was among the poll respondents, illustrates the difficulty that GOP candidates face in the state. The only Republican she's been tempted to vote for recently, she said, was Senate candidate Tom Campbell, who lost in the primary after a barrage of criticism that he was not conservative enough. "He's moderate, he's a thinking person," she said. "If they want independents and Democrats to vote for them…"I wouldn't exactly call Tom Campbell a moderate, but he is reality-based and a decent guy who feels the weight of civic responsibility. Kind of a shame what happened to him.
In any event, the import of all this beyond California is debatable. California has a lot of things you don't see anywhere else in the country: a demographically significant Asian-American population that has tilted strongly in the Democrats' favor over the past two decades, a larger-than-average LGBT population thanks to San Francisco (and Los Angeles as well), and a voting population that's quite a bit younger than normal states, which translates into a lot of voters whose formative years were spent under Bush 43's rule and are rabidly anti-Republican as a result. In fact, California has the fourth-lowest median age of all states, though the overall list suggests less of a correlation to voting than one might expect. Still, this is an overwhelmingly young and Hispanic-heavy state, and one where both cohorts are deeply influenced by progressive values and ideas. Republicans often dismiss California as some sort of non-mainstream exception to their center-right nation claims. They better hope they're right.