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California: Mitt Romney's New Firewall

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles as his wife Ann introduces him at The Hispanic Leadership Network's Lunch at Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami, Fla., Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    A couple of Romney’s firewalls have been breached already this primary season.

    Romney staked out New Hampshire as his initial “firewall”—that “must-win” contest that would fortify his aura of “inevitability.

    Won that. Then Rick Santorum belatedly eked out a razor-thin victory in Iowa. And Newt Gingrich nabbed South Carolina.

    Firewall #2 for Romney was Florida. A win there, Team Romney—and talking heads—opined, would lock up the nomination.

    But Santorum’s Feb. 7th trifecta put the brakes on Romney’s resurgence and gave Santorum needed momentum.

    Super Tuesday, on March 6, is not a guaranteed slam-dunk for Romney. Southern states more amenable to Santorum or Gingrich will account for 177 of the 437 delegates at stake in 10 contests. And that’s where California comes in

    On the night Romney won all 50 Florida’s delegates, Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, announced that, if the former Massachusetts governor garnered 100 percent of the delegates from then on (a virtual impossibility, since so many of this season’s GOP primary contests allocate delegates proportionately and not by “winner-take-all”), he could accumulate the 1144 necessary to win nomination.

    Todd added, if Romney collected 60% of the delegates, he could reach the magic total on June 5th.

    The Golden State votes on June 5th, when it will account for 172 of the 229 delegates up for grabs in five GOP contests. 

    One hundred fifty nine of those delegates will be distributed, three per Congressional District, to that candidate who wins each C.D.

    Ten will go to the statewide winner.

    It’s no accident that Gingrich will visit the Golden State in the next few weeks.

    His main purpose is to tap the state’s famed political ATM, but he’s also scheduled to address the California GOP’s state convention—whose delegates represent the party’s conservative activists and a mother lode of grass-roots foot soldiers.

    However, signs are that Romney could be the candidate best positioned to win California’s GOP primary. The state is so large and populous, with so many expensive media markets, that Romney’s overwhelming money advantage could really make a difference here.

    In addition, a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, taken before the South Carolina primary, showed Romney leading among California’s Republican likely voters (37 percent), followed by Gingrich (18 percent), Santorum (15 percent), and Ron Paul (11 percent); 17 percent of respondents were undecided.

    The state’s GOP voters are conservative, but they’re more “country-club” conservatives than Santorum or Gingrich conservatives. In Presidential contests, Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the non-partisan California Target Book, believes California Republicans are not amenable to hard-right ideologues.

    According to Hoffenblum, “California Republicans who tend to be more mainstream conservatives—turned off by rigid ideologues, and who, for the most part, reside in the [more Democratic] coastal part of California,… don’t have much sway in determining who [their] representatives are, [but they] do have a lot of sway in determining who Republican Presidential nominees are.

    “If it’s between Romney and Santorum in California,” Hoffenblum says, “it’s almost like between [mainstream conservative Meg] Whitman and [hard-right conservative Tom] McClintock…and Whitman would win.”

    But Whitman lost the 2010 governor’s race to Democrat Jerry Brown. Big.

    Romney’s prospects for a Golden State victory against President Obama in November are dim, but on June 5th, California may deliver him his party’s nomination.

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