Red Team's Election Blues

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Like the fans of a baseball team whose only hope of avoiding a shutout is the final batter, California Republicans are nervously watching the fate of Steve Cooley as they ponder what went so terribly wrong for the GOP brand on Election Day.

Cooley's lead over Democrat Kamala Harris is currently less than 12,000 votes. But even a win in the AG's race isn't going to soothe the wounds of Republicans who were trounced in just about every competitive race in the state. Where do they go from here?

On this morning's edition of The California Report, I checked in with a few voices both inside and outside state Republican circles on the impact of last Tuesday's big losses for the state GOP, made all the more noticeable by the huge victories the national party celebrated everywhere else.

First, a few numbers. A review of voter registration data shows that the current 13 point gap between Republicans and Democratic ranks over the past year is larger than any time since at least 1992. That translates into more than two million less Republicans than Democrats -- tough odds to overcome.

But as you'll hear in the story, there's no one agreed upon reason for the party's poor showing last week. Some, like state party vice-chairman Jon Fleischman, argue top of the ticket candidate Meg Whitman did little to generate interest for the other party candidates. Fleischman also blames Arnold Schwarzenegger for, in a sense, watering down the GOP brand in the state.

Others, though, suggest that until the state party finds a winning message with two key voter subsets -- independents and Latinos -- its problems are likely to continue. Karen Hanretty, a former state party communications director now based in D.C., says GOP candidates around the country made inroads with swing voters this fall. And former state GOP vice-chairman Mario Rodriguez says he hopes California Republicans will finally start figuring out what Latino voters care about; the Tuesday exit poll found 22% of voters this season were Latino, a big surge from years past. Rodriguez was especially critical of the decision by GOP gubernatorial contender Steve Poizner to make illegal immigration a centerpiece of his failed bid, thus reopening old wounds for the party.

But the GOP rejection seemed to be more about candidates than issues; some say ballot measures dealing with fiscal issues met a fate closely aligned with the party's preferences. Of course, it will be Democrats -- not Republicans -- who voters have entrusted to carry out those wishes.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Benito

    The Republicans are so funny, when the economy is good you say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”.

    The GOP has went on a nationwide rant in proposing and passing several anti-immigration legislation (that our US Courts continue to strike down) and have continue to blame the immigrant for the flat economy or worse.

    Plus the more radical of the GOP are now attacking our Constitution (with all Amendments), and the Declaration of Independence, in their crazy notion of wanting to take away rights that all of us take for granted in their misguided attempt to garner some much needed votes (how is that working), they really are fools, and leading the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits.

    When most Americans (of Latin America roots) went to the polls this November we all remembered who stood with us, our children, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, our parents and grandparents, in one word our families and who stood against us, so trying to make amends now is somewhat funny, but go ahead, you did not change our minds. Your hate made you do it, and you found out that you reap what you have sown. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would say about todays GOP, he unlike the current GOP was a man of ideas.