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California Republican Primary

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 28/03/2016 Arnold Steinberg

Is California in play?

To win the Republican Party nomination for president in Cleveland, a candidate needs to have a majority of delegates, that's 1237, if not on the first ballot, then subsequently. At stake in California is 172 delegates, or about 14 percent of the magic number.
Last week Karl Rove appeared to suggest that California is not a winner take-all primary. While the California calculus is not simple like Florida - that the top vote-getter wins the jackpot, it's pretty close.
Each of California's 53 Congressional districts is awarded 3 delegates, that's 159. The winner in each district, that is, the candidate who gets the most votes in that district, even if a plurality gets those 3 delegates. The candidate who receives the most votes statewide, again that could be a plurality, not a majority, gets 10 bonus delegates. Added to the total of 169 are 3 additional delegates, the Republican Party's state chair, the national committeewoman and national committeeman. They also will vote for the statewide winner.
Let's take Trump. If he gets the most votes in the state, he gets those 13 delegates (10+3), and 3 for each congressional district he carried. If Trump's numbers were the same as a few weeks ago, he could well have carried all those districts.
But Trump's numbers are not the same, they likely are declining.
The latest Los Angeles Times statewide survey of "likely voters" shows Trump at 36 percent, Cruz at 35 percent, and Kasich at 14 percent. The Times surveys generally have many problems, too numerous to mention. However, I have seen other data that indicate Trump's lead in California could be slim over Cruz, with Kasich gaining recently. The Times survey was in the field eight days (March 16-March 23) and likely thus underweighted Trump's decline over the last few days, especially the effects of Trump's attack March 22 on Heidi Cruz, the wife of Ted Cruz.
If the Republican primary election in California were today, a high turnout favors Trump, and a normal turnout favors Cruz. But the trend is moving against Trump, as he continues in self-destructive mode. Continued Trump-Cruz personal disputes seem petty and un-presidential and may benefit Cruz, and more likely benefit Kasich. Trump's policy speech at AIPAC last Monday was a high point, but earlier that day he was unprepared and unresponsive at a Washington Post editorial board meeting. Since then Trump regressed to personal attacks.
Back to the rules for California. The myth is that California is an open-primary, but that's only true in Congressional and state legislative races. While the Hillary-Bernie ballot also allows independent voters (and no Republicans), the Republican primary allows only Republicans. In other primaries this year, some Democrats and independent voters have voted in an "open" Republican primary for Trump, thus invading Republican turf. In multi-candidate primaries, these voters could have provided Trump, if not with a margin of victory, than with enough marginal votes to net him more delegates that could make a difference at the end in Cleveland.
Confusion could help Trump in California. As of this writing, other candidates remain on the ballot, possibly to siphon off anti-Trump votes. As of now, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina (and even Jim Gilmore) remain on the ballot. These candidates have until this Friday (April 1) to file an affidavit of withdrawal with the California Secretary of State to remove their name from the ballot. Although Bush and Fiorina have endorsed Cruz, and Carson and Christie have endorsed Trump, many Republican voters are unaware.
You can expect giant Trump rallies - in Orange County, the Inland Empire, San Diego, and perhaps the Central Valley and maybe even Northern California. But Ted Cruz has a database of hardcore supporters within many of the state's congressional districts. Also remember this: a clever campaign can pursue, very cost effectively, the smaller number of Republicans in heavily Democratic (and often nonwhite) congressional districts.
In terms of Republican districts, the evangelical Inland Empire districts and some Orange County districts could tilt Cruz, and a couple of "moderate" Republican districts might tilt Kasich. But the real battle is not over the 14 congressional districts represented by Republicans but over the 39 congressional districts represented by Democrats. Consider this: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has endorsed Ted Cruz. Rohrabacher's 45th congressional district in Orange County has 161,069 registered Republicans. But within Los Angeles County, Tony Cardenas represents Congressional District 29; that district has 40,794 registered Republicans, about a quarter of the Republicans in CD45. Republicans are dispirited in this sort of district; even if 25000 vote (a high turnout) 12501 would net the winner three delegates.
Who can deny this: no matter in which congressional district a Republican lives, he or she is influenced by the Big Picture -the news about what the candidates are doing and saying. California is a state with a growing number of voters by mail, many of them "permanent absentees." They will be voting during much of May. If Trump continues to favor personal attacks over serious policy, his lead will evaporate, and he could variously be in first, second or third place in different congressional districts. But if Cruz and Kasich both stay in the race, Trump might barely still win statewide. Yet, even a Trump statewide plurality is far from certain, because Trump is doing everything he possibly can to blow his lead.

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