There’s an internal debate within the California Republican Party about where to dedicate resources in 2014. Some believe that it’s essential for the party to compete in the gubernatorial race, even though Jerry Brown’s reelection is essentially signed, sealed and delivered. Others argue that it’s hopeless and the party’s limited resources should be spent in races that reduce the Democratic Party’s dominance in the legislature, with the goal of eliminating the Dem’s supermajority in both houses.
Last week, when Paul Mitchell and I presented at Hacks and PACs, Paul provided an outlook from Political Data (PDI) on likely 2014 primary voters. The projection is that 50% are DemPlus, 39% are RepPlus, and 11% are other. “Plus” is a categorization used by PDI that tries to identify voting behavior by identifying independent voters who behave like they are affiliated with a party. Thus, a “no party preference” voter who contributed to Mitt Romney is likely to consistently vote Republican, despite their independent registration.
Democrats increased their voter registration advantage over Republicans by 500,000 over the last year to 2.7 million. The overall voter file is currently 47% DemPlus, 31% Republican, and 22% other. Generally, despite our political upbringing that Democrats are less likely to vote in primary elections, the biggest chunk of voters who take a pass on round one are “other” voters, not partisan Democrats. For the general election, 49% are DemPlus, 36% are RepPlus, and 14% are other.
As we look toward the general and, if we assume turnout will largely mirror the voter file, we find that Republicans need to capture 100% of the “other” voters to win a statewide office. In other words, only when there is an extraordinarily good GOP candidate or an extraordinarily bad Democratic candidate, Dems will sweep statewide offices with a voter file like currently found in California.
Which brings us to the conundrum. The California Republican Party will only recover with strong statewide candidates that can win back not just independent voters, but a chunk of DemPlus voters. Essentially, the party needs a realignment, which only happens when there is a massive social movement or a candidate that rebrands the party. As of now, there is no such candidate on the bench or even talked about as a possibility. The best bet would be a libertarian-minded (ideally self-funded) Silicon Valley face who could connect with a lasting group of young voters. Only then will the Republican base grow, other than in name only, as we saw in the failed voter registration drive in Riverside County last year.
So, as Jim Brulte is making decisions of where to compete next year, it probably should be on five races that will determine whether Democrats have supermajorities–AD36, AD65, SD12,SD14, and SD34. Republicans need to win both State Assembly seats and the three State Senate seats to eliminate both supermajorities.
Crossposted on The Nooner