Given the large field of Republican presidential candidates, no clear frontrunner and the real possibility that delegates will be dispersed among many candidates during the primary season, it is conceivable that California Republican voters in the June primary could provide the needed delegates for one of the candidates to secure the nomination.

While California has earned a reputation for being the ATM machine of national politics, because the state’s primary falls late in the primary election season, rarely do the primary voters have a chance to really have a say in picking the nominee.

By the time California’s primary rolls around on the 7th of June, 37 states will have already conducted primaries or caucuses. In the past, California made attempts to move the primary up in the schedule so that the most populous state in the union could have a greater say. California tried a presidential primary in March one year, in February another year while holding the state primary in June. Too many elections, legislators decided. Besides, the state really didn’t influence the presidential process with those early primaries and the decision was made to move the primary back to its usual spot in June.

But a diverse and diffuse field of 16 Republican candidates could be enough to split the delegate count and allow California voters to play a role.

It’s been a long time since California was a major influence in choosing a nominee of either party.

“The last time California really was a tipping point in a nomination contest was 1972, when McGovern beat Humphrey in what was then a winner-take-all primary,” wrote Claremont-McKenna College professor Jack Pitney.  “The Credentials Committee said that the delegates should be allocated proportionately, and in a climactic floor fight, McGovern narrowly prevailed.  Willie Brown addressed the convention, and said, ”Give me back my delegation!” (Max Frankel of the New York Times misidentified Brown as a state senator in this story.)”

Of course, it’s too early to know which Republicans will still be in the contest next June. All current news about the Republican presidential contest centers on Donald Trump. Many California Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Trump because of his comments on immigrants even before his attack on Sen. John McCain. Yet, recent polls show Trump in the lead. According to Grassroots Lab, almost 14-percent of California Republican voters are Latino.

I wondered if Trump’s commentary might lift the prospects of Republican New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for the Vice-Presidential spot. Martinez is the only Latina governor and she was quick to declare Trump’s comments “horrible” after they made news.

I put the question to Professor Pitney who eight years ago noted well before anyone else that Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska might be considered for the vice-presidential position.

“Unless Rubio is the nominee, she will definitely get a close look.  But she has to contend with memories of Sarah Palin,” Pitney wrote in an email.  “As a governor, Martinez knows domestic issues, and as a former prosecutor, she knows legal issues.  But can she speak knowledgeably about foreign policy and national security?  The nominee’s vetting team needs to find out.  All the demographic balancing in the world won’t matter if voters have real doubts about her readiness.  If she passes the test, though, she’s on the short list.”

By the way, the first California presidential primary occurred in May 1912 at the height of the Progressive Era. But California voters didn’t do a good job of choosing the final party nominees. On the Republican side, former president Theodore Roosevelt defeated sitting president William Howard Taft by a 2-1 margin. On the Democratic side House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri beat Gov. Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey by better than 2-1. Taft and Wilson took their respective party nominations.