A Disaster for the Republican Right

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

It is not an overstatement to say that the "true conservative" right
wing of the Republican Party suffered a defeat Tuesday from which it
may never recover.

Shifting through the ashes, the wreckage is
everywhere.

Start with the long term: Proposition 14, the top two open primary.
This measure will have a bigger impact on Republican candidates,
because there is not a single district in California with a Republican
registration majority.  

The right wing could dominate legislative and
congressional primaries because they knew how to win closed GOP
primaries where a minority of voters could participate.  Now that is
gone.  All voters in every GOP district will now choose the Republicans
(no longer party nominees) who will run in the fall.  Proposition 14
rewrites the primary in every district, and gives centrists a far
better chance of electoral success.

In the election itself, the Republican right was repudiated by its own
voters in California’s last closed primary at virtually every level.
Look at the endorsements of the California Republican Assembly and the
results:

Governor: Steve Poizner – Lost 27 to 64 percent
Lt Governor:  Sam Aanestad – Lost 31 to 43 percent
Attorney General: John Eastman – Lost 34 to 47 percent
Proposition 14: No – Republicans voted yes   
US Senate: Chuck DeVore – Ran third with only 19 percent

So the Republican electorate gave the right wing candidates on average
about 30 percent of the GOP primary vote.  The CRA suffered a personal
repudiation when its former president, Ken Mettler, was crushed 27 to
68 percent in an Assembly primary.

The election also proved that the so-called GOP grassroots activists,
while full of sound and fury, have little influence with the voters.
Most telling was the complete failure of the Poizner strategy of
pandering to the activists and tacking to the right on every issue, and
of course building his campaign around illegal immigration.  He began
his campaign two years ago as a sensible, moderate businessman and
ended it sounding like a xenophobic lunatic.  Republicans supposedly
are hysterical about illegal immigrants; well they are not.  As polling
showed before the election, they are most concerned about jobs, the
budget and taxes.  

But Poizner accomplish one thing, he pulled GOP nominee Meg Whitman
into the morass of illegal immigration and made it much harder for her
to win the one third of Latino voters a Republican needs to succeed in
November.

Republicans also proved they are far more independent of their
so-called leaders.  Famous "conservative icon" Rep. Tom McClintock
wailed that "Meg Whitman is no conservative" and demanded that GOP
voters reject her. Instead they gave her 64 percent of the vote.  As
far as I can tell, every single candidate McClintock endorsed in this
primary was defeated.  Republicans are indeed a minority statewide, and
McClintock has established himself as a minority within a minority.

But in the age of Obama, it would seem Republican voters don’t want to
be a minority forever; and so choose candidates not for their
ideological purity but because they can win.  More choices in their
candidates (Proposition 14) and nominating the strongest statewide
contenders was the mantra for GOP voters in primary 2010, and so they
rejected the siren call to go with the most right wing candidates on
the ballot.

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