After decades of being used mainly as an A-T-M for candidates to pull money out of, California is now shaping up as a pivotal state in the GOP White House race.
Witness Ted Cruz’s early campaign rallies here in San Diego and Irvine on Monday – for all intents and purposes, a "soft launch" for the June 7th primary election that’s still eight weeks away.
Campaign strategists not affiliated with Cruz tell NBC 7 that Donald Trump still doesn't have a point person to run a ground game in California.
By contrast, Team Cruz already has a full-fledged, salaried operation in place.
The freshman U.S. Senator from Texas told supporters at the Hotel Irvine that they were in the "birthplace of the Reagan Revolution".
He's certainly carrying a lot of momentum right now, having just rustled up 34 uncommitted delegates in Colorado because no primary or caucuses where held there.
Donald Trump is crying foul, seeing his momentum slowing down as Cruz also has outflanked him for available delegates in a number of other states.
There's more of a challenge in California, where the state's 53 Congressional districts each hold 3 GOP delegates to be won at the ballot box.
San Diego County has five districts, worth a total of 15.
But Cruz reportedly has been reaching out to 13 at-large and super delegates who'll be part of the 172-member delegation at the Republican Convention in Cleveland.
A local strategist who worked for Mario Rubio's campaign before it folded sees Cruz as well-positioned against Trump once the race focuses on California.
"I think that Cruz is the beneficiary of how objectionable Republicans find Donald Trump,” Jason Cabel Roe said in an interview Monday. “Particularly in a state like California, particularly in a state that has an enormous Latino population that is grossly offended by Donald Trump."
In Irvine, Cruz predicted that for the first time in a half-century, the Republican nomination will be decided here in California.
A former state party chairman linked Donald Trump to Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying things don't go well when California elects rich celebrities.