President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, following the Senate vote to approve legislation extending a Social Security payroll tax cut and long-term jobless benefits for two months. Obama says it would be "inexcusable" for Congress not to extend a payroll tax cut for the rest of 2012 when lawmakers return from their holiday break. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Americans Elect, the group that plans to nominate a presidential candidate via an Internet convention this coming June, has submitted enough signatures to qualify its nominee for the ballot in California next year.
If Americans Elect makes the ballot in all 50 states, you can expect to hear a lot about what the party -- which has portrayed itself as a moderating force between the two major political parties -- might have in the presidential race.
Would the party take more votes from President Obama -- and elect a conservative Republican? Would the party take more votes from the Republican nominee and help re-elect an unpopular Obama? Or could an Americans Elect candidate win the presidency?
It's hard to know the answers to these questions now, before we know how strong the new party will be or who its nominee will be. But it's not too early to ask what the impact of Americans Elect might be on California. One answer: Americans Elect might be good for the state, and its budget.
That's because having a new party and moderate candidate on the ballot might create real political competition for votes in California. The lack of competition for the presidency here -- the Democrats have won the last five presidential elections in California, all easily -- has been bad for California. Since the parties and candidates don't have to compete here, they don't have to promise to do special things for California or come up with extra money that might benefit the state coffers.
That kind of largesse goes to competitive states such as Florida and Ohio. Americans Elect -- particularly if it were seen as a threat to the Democrats -- would create enough doubt that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress could be pressured to do more for California.
Maybe greater subsidies for our industry, various forms of assistance to ease our state budget pain, or even immigration reform to legalize the state workforce. The pressure on Obama to come up with something special for California would be immense if California were put in play by Americans Elect's ballot presence -- because Democrats can't win the White House without California's 55 electoral votes.