Where do reporters who cover California politics think the state is heading post election 2008? That was the area under discussion behind the Friday lunch time panel at a post election conference held at the University of Southern California sponsored by USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute and Politico.

Unruh Institute Director Dan Schnur and USC Daily Trojan political reporter Catherine Lyons fired questions at a panel of California reporters and editors who combined have been watching Golden State politics for well over a century.

To the question, can President-elect Barack Obama look to California as a model for bi-partisanship or, as Governor Schwarzenegger frequently trumpets in his speeches away from the capitol, a post-partisan world? The answer was a decided No. Amy Chance of the Sacramento Bee noted that in the eyes of Republican elected officials post partisanship means one Republican, the governor, and the Democrats. Capitol Weekly’s Anthony York said the lesson for Obama out of California is to beware of your friends, they are more dangerous than your enemies.

But could the relationship between the new administration and California, a decidedly blue state, become closer under the new president? John Marelius of the San Diego Union Tribune opined that Bill Clinton worked his California connections closely and that George Bush treated the state like an alien planet. Marelius suspected that Obama might fall somewhere in the middle.

Cathleen Decker, state political editor of the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that when Clinton first ran California had voted Republican in presidential contests for a number of elections. He had to pay attention to California.

If California is such a Democratic leaning state, what’s with all the Republican governors over the last few decades? York suspected that the reason was that there is a Rockefeller strain running through California with governors such as Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Picking up on the idea that moderates do well in this state, Decker said that the best moderates win the governor’s race, and that has often been Republicans. But Decker pointed out that 83% of the first time voters in this election went for Obama, and some experts argue that if they come out and vote Democratic in the next election they will be Democrats for life. With the large Decline-to-State voter bloc in the state leaning Democratic, Decker said it’s hard to see Democrats losing the governorship.

However, Marelius pointed out that in the recent past blue states like Massachusetts and New York have had Republican governors and red states such as Wyoming and Kansas have had Democratic governors. He didn’t think California was particularly unusual.

Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times argued to see that color of the state is blue, look at the down ticket constitutional offices which nearly always have been taken by Democrats in recent elections.