Any CA March Primary Consequences for the President?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill moving California’s presidential primary to early March 2020 and all the focus has been on what that means for Democratic candidates, Californians who might run for president, and setting the Democratic agenda for the entire campaign. But it is possible that the move to March might have an influence on the Republican presidential side of the ballot as well.

President Donald Trump has made no secret that he wants to keep the job. Efforts to embarrass him or keep him off the ballot by California’s Democratic legislature by requiring all presidential candidates to produce tax returns is not at issue here. Governor Brown may not even sign the bill and if he does a constitutional challenge could very well knock the requirement aside.

However, Trump could face a challenger from his own party and a strong showing for a challenger in an early primary in vote rich California could have national impact.

The odds are Republican voters will stick with the president here. Remember, the top two primary does not apply to the presidential race and the California GOP only allows Republicans to vote in the Republican primary. Some Independents and Democrats might re-register if they see an opportunity to sting Trump by supporting a Republican challenger but the numbers would not be great.

According to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, Trump enjoys 70% support from Republicans but 26% disapprove of the job he is doing. One out of four members of the president’s party disapproving is a significant number.

Could a Republican challenger score in California to scramble Trump’s road to re-nomination?

I put the question to veteran Republican consultant Rob Stutzman who participated in the Never Trump effort in the last election.

“California campaign costs are prohibitive, so a Trump challenger will need to have high name ID and genuine enthusiasm to catch on with primary voters,” Stutzman said. “However, because California awards delegates by congressional district, there are some interesting and more efficient opportunities for a savvy campaign to challenge for delegates in urban and minority districts.”

While attention is generated around California’s progressive agenda influencing the Democratic platform in 2020 and political observers calculate the odds on an early California primary helping potential California presidential candidates like Senator Kamala Harris and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, there could be action on the Republican side that might influence the presidential end game in unexpected ways.

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