In 2014, two Republicans almost advanced to November under California’s Top Two system in the State Controller race.  This year, it may be two Democrats advancing in the open U.S. Senate election.

I’ve already detailed the math problem Republicans have in the Senate race and thus far, it appears Loretta Sanchez is receiving the 18% or so I predicted she might given historical Democratic turnout. Thus far, Republicans Duf Sundheim, Tom Del Beccaro, and Ron Unz are all clustered in the high single digits. But with 1/3rd of the vote either undecided or for the multitude of other candidates, a lot of movement can still happen.

But what could a D. vs. D race mean for California’s minority party?  

Theory One: Dimming Harris’ Rising Star

Against a Republican, Kamala Harris, a rising star in the national Democratic Party, would be the prohibitive favorite. Therefore, the most plausible way to blunt her rise is for Loretta Sanchez to go up against her in November. A coalition of Latinos, moderate Democrats, and Republicans (even if Republican turnout is depressed), could be enough to make Sanchez a U.S. Senator. The added upside is that Republicans could constantly remind Sanchez that the only reason she won was because of Republican support – giving Republicans a friendlier vote (especially compared to Harris).  Moreover, if and when the California Republicans return to stronger health, Sanchez’s gaffe-prone nature could make her an easier target.

Theory Two: Republican Turnout Depression

With Hillary Clinton assured the Golden State’s Electoral College votes and no Republican in the U.S. Senate race, Republican turnout in November is sure to dip.  This would have serious consequences for the multitude of competitive local and state legislative races, which is bad news for California Republicans trying to build a bench and be relevant. Moreover, state legislative and local policy making actions are way more important to people’s daily lives that what happens in D.C. Not to mention the effect lower Republican turnout would have on the multitude of ballot measures on the November ballot, which is bad news since ballot measures can only be amended or repeal via another ballot measure. 2014 showed glimmers of hope for a slow (but steady) Republican rebuilding. 2016 could undo all of that progress.

Of course, both of these don’t have to go in tandem. State, local, and/or ballot measure campaigns could step up their GOTV game and promote GOP turnout, while Sanchez could stumble and Harris’ star continues it upward movement.