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California's Consolation

Invoking Ronald Reagan's name is always a crowd-pleaser at the RNC

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    FILE - In this July 17, 1980, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan stands before a cheering Republican National Convention in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.

    It's been 24 years since a Republican carried the presidential vote in California, and this fall, there is no chance of that drought coming to an end. That underscores the state's diminished influence, at a time when Sacramento remains a Democratic stronghold and Republican registration has slipped.

    At the Republican National Convention last week, California's delegation may have been the largest, but like an athlete who doesn't live up to his potential, that size is irrelevant.

    This is a state that -- as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted with derision this week -- elected Jerry Brown as governor over Meg Whitman. A place that, as Republicans made notable electoral gains in 2010 across the nation, hosted a Democratic sweep of statewide offices. What's a blue state delegation like this to do in the face of that uncomfortable truth?

    On Tuesday, former California Gov. Pete Wilson turned to a time-honored formula. As he took to the microphone during roll call in Tampa, Wilson brought up Ronald Reagan.

    "California, the state that gave America and the world the inspirational leadership of Ronald Reagan, proudly casts all of our 172 votes for another champion and another living example of American exceptionalism, Gov. Mitt Romney," Wilson exclaimed.

    Reagan is the only California governor to have gone on to the White House. In Republican circles, as his status has grown, that constitutes bragging rights for the state.

    At the Republican Convention in Philadelphia in 2000, four years before Reagan's death, his record was a big part of the California delegation's schedule. Nancy Reagan spoke to delegates that year, along with George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary of State.

    In the years since, Reagan's legacy has become an important part of these gatherings. It's nostalgia for his sunny personality, for his ability to attract Democratic support, and for a time when America's standing in the world was much stronger.

    So in Tampa, it was inevitable that the Gipper's name be invoked. And for California's delegates, it was probably necessary.

    Author Kevin Riggs, an Emmy-winning former TV reporter in Sacramento, is Senior Vice President at Randle Communications.

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