California, the home of two Republican Presidential libraries, continues to become a liberal safe haven. In former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new biography, he writes that even Karl Rove considers California too far gone for Republican candidates.

Can the state that jump started both Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon’s political careers really be completely out of reach for the Grand Old Party?  Can a Republican win statewide in California and if not, how can the Republican Party change this unfortunate circumstance?

Not too long ago the GOP had some successes in statewide offices; yet, in 2010, the Democratic candidates completely swept the board beating every Republican candidate by double-digits in all but one race. Demographics are increasingly shifting away from the Republican Party—the Latino and Asian populations have grown 18% and 25%, respectively, since 2000. Meanwhile, Republican voter registration rolls continue to plummet.  Today just 30% of total registered California voters are Republicans.

According to electoral analysis computed using recent election results and adjusting for both turnout and the new California top-two system, an average Republican candidate in California can only reasonably expect to receive 45% of the vote.  While this is better than your typical Texas Democrat, it is not enough to win under the new top-two system, which will only feature two candidates in the general election, meaning the winning candidate requires a clear majority.   Even more depressing for Republicans in the Golden State: their ceiling doesn’t come close to reaching 50%.  Unlike Virginia—where a candidate can win with a plurality—a strong Democrat can essentially reach 50%, while a strong California Republican candidate would have to exceed their expected ceiling by more than 2 percentage points—a hefty task considering the circumstances.

Statewide Electoral Analysis Comparison

California Texas Virginia
Average Republican Candidate




Avg. Republican Candidate Ceiling




Avg. Republican Candidate Floor




Average Democratic Candidate




Avg. Democratic Candidate Ceiling




Avg. Democratic Candidate Floor





Therefore, we have to wonder, is it even possible for the Republican Party to win in California?  The table below suggests yes.  It shows the margin of victory (or defeat) per geographical region in California for the 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial, 2010 Senate, and 2010 Attorney General Elections.  While Schwarzenegger and Rove were discussing the 2003 Recall Election when Rove dismissed a Republican’s prospects, this table, which uses my adjusted top-two electoral system results, proves “The Architect” wrong (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

Schwarzenegger Margin

Cooley Margin

Fiorina Margin

Whitman Margin

Bay Area





Northern Coast





Central Coast





Southern Coast










Sacramento Valley





San Joaquin Valley





Inland Empire





Weighted Average






Schwarzenegger was not your typical Republican candidate—he had celebrity status, a weak challenger, and had the power of the incumbency; yet, despite having more liberal tendencies, Schwarzenegger was able to run up massive margins in the most conservative regions.  Looking at this comparison quickly shows that to be competitive, Republican candidates must run up large margins in safe Republican counties (Sierras, Inland Empire, San Joaquin Valley, and Orange County in the Southern Coast), win the swing areas (Ventura and San Diego Counties in the Southern Coast, the Sacramento Valley, and the Central Coast), and close the gap in the liberal bastions (the Bay Area, the Northern Coast, and LA County in the Southern Coast).

Thus, how can the Republican Party become competitive, again?  Easy answer; tough execution: 1) Regain trust with the electorate by putting forth serious policy/legislative alternatives to Democratic legislation instead of simply voting “no,” and build a bench by recruiting local candidates and fostering candidates up the electoral ladder; 2) Do not ignore and alienate the moderates in the party and California Independents—these voters are necessary for electoral success and are increasingly being ceded to the Democrats; 3) Broaden the party’s demographic appeal to Latinos and Asians, who are both emergent electoral blocs and respond well to a prosperity-based economic message; and 4) Refocus the policy debate by making social issues secondary, adjusting the party’s immigration stance, and bringing to the forefront economic prosperity, budgetary/taxation/spending reform, pro-student education reform, and comprehensive pension reform.

California’s one-party rule is a disservice to all Californians and only a competitive Republican Party can help restore California’s once “golden” hue. Nothing I suggest is overly hopeful in nature or unrealistic and everything is based on current demographics, regional tendencies, and public opinion. The path back to statewide success will be rough with failures along the way, but the process must start today.

The full version of “The Revitalization of the California Republican Party” analysis can be found here.