Lots of Calif. Voters Still Saying No to Republican ‘Party of Yes’

The California Republican Party is trying to re-brand itself as the “Party of Yes,” a phrase that sits right at the top of the GOP web page. To non-party members, the claim may seem a little like Fox News’ omnipresent contention that the network is “fair and balanced”: if you have to affix it to your logo, that perhaps raises the very question you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

Protestations of affirmativeness notwithstanding, California Republicans would say they’re at least pretty clear on what they’re against: taxes. At the GOP state convention this weekend, the party officially staked out its “no thanks” position on the two November ballot initiatives that propose to raise new tax revenue: Proposition 30 and Proposition 38. (Here’s a list of GOP recommendations on all the propositions.)

Other news to come out of the convention: the delegates dig Paul Ryan. Plus one event of real note. From the Sacramento Bee today:

(T)he California Republican Party Board of Directors has approved a structural shake-up some insiders say is meant to limit Chairman Tom Del Beccaro’s involvement in the party’s strategic planning and fundraising efforts. The actions, outlined in a draft resolution provided to The Bee, included creating a new 2012 campaign fund that will be controlled by the vice chairman and the treasurer. The board also replaced all members of the Strategic Planning Committee, which it assigned to oversee “Victory 2012 activities to support the election of Republican candidates,” including voter turnout and outreach programs and media relations…

The changes were approved during a closed meeting Sunday after the general session of the party’s fall convention in Burbank concluded. Full story

Turmoil in California Republican-land is not a new phenomenon, of course. Last year, KQED’s Dan Brekke wrote this before the GOP’s fall convention:

(T)he thousand or so party members are meeting as the party faces a host of serious long-term challenges: declining Republican voter registration; a troubled relationship with the state’s rapidly growing Latino population; and newly drawn legislative districts that could cost the minority party some of the seats it holds in Sacramento and Washington.

“The thing about the Republicans is that they have nowhere to go but up,” Jack Pitney, Crocker Professor of Politics at Claremont McKenna College, said in an interview Friday with KQED News host Cy Musiker.

Fast forward nine months later, and the New York Times has this to say:

(T)he state party — once a symbol of Republican hope and geographical reach and which gave the nation Ronald Reagan (and Richard M. Nixon) — is caught in a cycle of relentless decline, and appears in danger of shrinking to the rank of a minor party.

“We are at a lower point than we’ve ever been,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the United States House of Representatives. “It’s rebuilding time.”

Registered Republicans now account for just 30 percent of the California electorate, and are on a path that analysts predict could drop them to No. 3 in six years, behind Democrats, who currently make up 43 percent, and independent voters, with 21 percent

The Times’ GOPocalypse Now piece quotes Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime, former consultant to the state party. He says, “They have alienated large swaths of voters,”

“What we have is a large percentage of first-generation Latinos – most of whom are hardworking – but have come from a culture of complete government dependence.”

–Former GOP State Chair Shawn Steel

One of those groups, famously, is Latinos. As Frank Stoltze reported for The California Report on Friday, “Political analysts suggest the GOP’s tough stance on immigration has hurt it with Latinos – the fastest growing group of voters.” The genesis of Latino animus toward Republicans is often traced to Proposition 187, an initiative pushed heavily by Republican Governor Pete Wilson that attempted to deny benefits to undocumented immigrants. As KQED’s Scott Shafer told me back in April, Prop 187, which was eventually ruled by a judge to be unconstitutional, “led to a huge increase in Latino voter participation, most of whom voted Democratic, and the state GOP has never recovered.”

Attending this weekend’s GOP convention was former state GOP chair Shawn Steel. Frank Stoltze asked him about the rift between the party and Latinos, who now make up roughly 38 percent of California’s population. His answer is unlikely to appease this particular demographic:

“What we have is a large percentage of first-generation Latinos – most of whom are hardworking – but have come from a culture of complete government dependence,”Steel said, offering this as the reason that the group prefers “big-government” Democrats.

But Columnist Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee argued on Sunday that reports of the party’s death have been somewhat, if not greatly, exaggerated…

(I)f the state’s economic malaise continues, if Proposition 32 passes, if Democrats continue their drift to the left and defy public sentiment on such issues as the bullet train and pension reform, and if voters reject the new taxes that Democrats are pushing, Republicans will have an opening.

They’ve been down and out before – nearly four decades ago, in the aftermath of Watergate and during the governorship of a young Jerry Brown. But within a few years, they staged a dramatic comeback and dominated California’s political landscape for nearly two decades.

Maybe. Though short of Obama publicly praying for both the Giants and Dodgers to lose the pennant, the GOP can probably at least give up on winning California’s mother lode of electoral votes this presidential election cycle.  The polls look daunting at best. And Mitt Romney, he’s not exactly wooing voters here.

In terms of fundraising, however… that’s another story.