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Op-Ed: Low Primary Turnouts Bode Ill for GOP

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

By Hank Plante
Special to Calbuzz

Mitt Romney’s tepid victory in his home state of Michigan this week was so narrow that he’ll have to split that state’s delegates almost evenly with Rick Santorum.

Beyond learning that the Republican party is still deeply divided, there is another lesson emerging that should serve as a warning sign to whoever is the nominee:  too many Republican voters are staying home.

In most of the GOP primaries this year, Republican turnout has been abysmally low.

Michigan joins other states where GOP turnout was lower than it was four years ago.  In fact, compared to 2008, Republican turnout this year was down 11% in Iowa, down 14% in Florida, down 23% in Minnesota and down 26% in Nevada.  This, despite 20 Republican debates and the most lively GOP primary season in years.

So where’s the enthusiasm?  Simply put, the party may be paying the price for having candidates so far to the right that they are out of touch with mainstream voters, including mainstream Republicans.

Culture wars: The low turnout is indicative that many GOP moderates are feeling alienated. Even conservative columnist David Brooks complained in the New York Times this week that, “All across the nation there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid.”

Of course some analysts say the problem is simply the choice of GOP candidates.  Early in the race, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein coined the phrase, “the Republican Romper Room.”  And Michael Tomasky, writing in The Daily Beast, said, “They’re lousy candidates with no ideas because they’re in a party that doesn’t care about ideas.”

“All these candidates have to do is speak in billboards,” Tomasky added. “Low taxes.  No regulation.  Cut spending.  Death to the EPA.  Build a fence.  Build a higher fence.”

As the leading candidates have talked about contraception, gay rights, religion and even what’s wrong with a college education, they have missed opportunities to talk more about the economy – the one area where President Obama may be vulnerable.

And when they do talk about these cultural issues, they are so far outside the mainstream that the eventual nominee may never be able to move back to the middle, where elections are won.

Not exactly Goldwater: How will that nominee explain all nine Republican candidates standing silently at a debate while a gay solider in Iraq is booed by the audience, simply because he asked an innocent question via YouTube?

Contrast that to the positions of Barry Goldwater, the father of modern conservatism, who believed in gay rights and abortion rights, because he felt the true conservative position was that the government should stay out of your bedroom and out of your medical clinic.

National Republicans who have shut-out moderates in their party may pay the same price their brethren have already paid in California.  By alienating Latinos, gays, union workers and independents, California Republicans have seen their registration drop to 30% of the electorate here (a five-point decline since 2003).  That gives California Democrats nearly a 14-point advantage in voter registration.

A Republican moderate like Tom Campbell, who ran in the U.S. Senate primary last time, didn’t stand a chance of getting his party’s nomination.

Many doubt that a moderate like Arnold Schwarzenegger could have won in a normal Republican primary, rather than waltzing-in the back door of a recall campaign.

And here we are, eight months before the next Senate race, and state Republicans have not managed to recruit a single big name candidate to take on Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

Not so-Golden State for GOP: It was after that last statewide election that another Republican moderate, former California GOP Chair Duf Sundheim, pronounced, “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.”

Ironically, the Republicans who are left here in the Golden State may actually have a voice in the Presidential primary race,  since it appears it won’t be decided anytime soon.  Our June 5th primary may count, especially when you consider our state’s 172 GOP delegates make-up 15% of the total needed to be nominated.

When the Republican candidates arrive in California, they’ll find a state so moderate that this week’s Field Poll finds gay marriage is favored here by 25 points.  Whether those candidates adapt to our reality, or whether they continue to pander to an extremist segment of their base, remains to be seen.

Hank Plante, Palm Springs Bureau Chief for Calbuzz, is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who has spent three decades covering California politics.

Press Clips: Siri & Moonies Eye Lesbian Bondage Bar

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

The small but plucky band of professionally cursed MSM types who were forced to spend their weekend covering the California Republican Party convention could only gaze with wistfulness and savage jealousy to Washington, where two colleagues had scored one of the best gigs on the political beat: a road trip with Jerry Brown.

Oh sure, the Sacbee’s David Siders and Anthony York of the By God L.A. Times seemed hampered at the start because nearly every one of the dozen events on Governor Gandalf’s schedule for the National Governors Association meeting was “closed press.”

But as your Calbuzzards learned back when giant fleas were still tormenting dinosaurs as the Earth cooled, just hang with Brown for awhile and he’ll do something weird enough to head off any rude questions the suits might otherwise raise about your expense account (which reminds us of Old Chronicler Kevin Leary putting in for $500 worth of “refreshments with pilgrims” while accompanying the late Pope John Paul II from Rome to the start of his 1987 U.S. tour. But we digress).

So it was that the resourceful dynamic duo of the California press corps came up with a couple of Jerry-being-Jerry yarns that not only provided stories to dine out on far into geezerhood, but also won each a share of this week’s “If You Don’t Like the News Go Out and Make Some of Your Own” Little Pulitzer award. (h/t Scoop Nisker.)

Siders got things rolling Friday night with a swell piece that began with some understated snark about the press being banned from an event at the friggin’ Newseum (Mission statement: “educate the public about the value of a free press in a free society,” ha, ha) ferhevvinsakes, an absurdity which he apparently propounded to Brown clearly enough that Krusty tried to help the quick-witted newshound crash the party.

“You can come in,” he said. “Just come in and see what they say about that.”

Brown was persistent – “He can just walk through a little bit and get a smell of it,” he said – but the association had already spoken, and Brown’s wife and special counsel, Anne Gust Brown, suggested to her husband that with so many other governors present he could not change the rules.

So on his iPhone 4S, Brown consulted Siri.

“Should this meeting be closed to the press?”

Siri said it didn’t see any meeting about that.

Gust Brown translated: “She doesn’t think there’s a meeting about ‘Be closed to the press.’”

“Brown consulted Siri.” Can you believe they actually pay people to write this stuff? Siders’ video report is here.

Moonbeam meets Moonie: Next on the road trip hit parade was the governor’s encounter with an unfortunate and pathetically unprepared reporter from the Washington Times, to whom he provided a classic Brown drive-by dressing-down, of which California media types long ago learned to be wary.

The transcript of the exchange included in York’s richly detailed report is worth reproducing in full, not only to have it ensconced in our incomparable archive,  but also to note for the record the mad dog contribution of street fightin’ man Gil Duran:

Reporter: Gov. Brown, you’ve gotten criticism that you’ve ceded…
Brown: I’ve gotten criticism? Only from the Washington Times…
Reporter: I understand that you’ve gotten some criticism that you’ve ceded way too much to the unions.
Brown: Give me an example.
Reporter: As far as the education, teachers unions, and just as far as some of the contracts that have been negotiated, that you could be making the same mistake that you made in your last administration…
Brown: Which one was that?
Reporter: … Back in the day.
Brown: When California had a $6-billion surplus and was leading America, if not the world, in many different fields?
Reporter: Well, right now it’s going bankrupt.
Brown: That’s untrue. I’ve reduced the deficit that was left to me by a Republican governor from $26 billion to $9 billion and I have a plan to reduce it to zero.
Reporter: So you’re saying that the reason that California is going bankrupt is…
Brown: No, that’s not true. We’re going far. I mean, we’re doing quite well.
Duran: You need to ask a question that’s based on the truth.
Brown (to Duran): You don’t have to argue with her…
Duran: No, S&P just upgraded to positive. That’s not bankrupt.
Reporter: No, actually, because when Reagan came in later on, things actually changed.
Brown: No, Reagan came before me. Reagan came after my father and then I came after Reagan.
Reporter: And then you actually lost your term thereafter, no?
Brown: No, I’m the only Democratic governor in history to serve three terms. In fact only two governors have ever served a third term.
Reporter: So why is it then, that we’re seeing from the bankruptcy though…
Duran: There is no bankruptcy. That’s a lie. You’re lying.
Brown: California has a $2-trillion economy.
Reporter: Why am I a liar?
Brown: Last year… Are you a Moonie by any chance?
Reporter: Sir…
Duran: And your facts are totally wrong. I can prove it to you.
Brown: Because your incisiveness is kind of suspect. Anyway. California, the economy is doing better, it’s coming back. The private economy added $90 billion, and that feeds into the public sector as well. There are deficits because there’s been excesses in the last decade, brought on principally by the mortgage bubble and breakdown. And we’re now cleaning up after that mess. It does take a while to do that. I’d say we’re on a very positive course. Not as rapid as I would like, but the trajectory is all in the right direction.
Reporter: Thank you, sir.

“Are you a Moonie by any chance?” Not just “Are you a Moonie,” mind you, but “Are you a Moonie by any chance?” God we love this business!

Convention remainders: While Siders was hobnobbing with Beltway swells, erstwhile partner Torey Van Oot was stuck with wing nut double duty, conscientiously prowling the halls of the fashionable Hyatt Regency (VROOOM!) San Francisco (VROOM!) Airport (VROOM!) and keeping a watchful eye on Calbuzz as we stealthily pursued a red-hot rumor that Tom Del Becarro and Callista Gingrich share the same hairdresser.

Not a total loss: For unstinting effort, Van Oot takes home the Calbuzz MVH (Most Valuable Hack) Award for total convention coverage.  Incessantly tweeting, posting online and filing for the dead trees edition, the Flying Non-Dutchwoman was indefatigable, and receives high honors for being the only journo who actually covered Tim Pawlenty’s Saturday night banquet snooozzze speech, and Sunday’s intraparty feud over the…wait for it… GOP platform.

The MVF (Most Valuable Flack) Award meanwhile goes to Mark Standriff, the hardest workin’ man in show business.

The CRP’s former communications chief, Standriff reveled in his new gig as an independent political consultant, doing the double hustle on behalf of Difi wannabe, the elusive Elizabeth Emken, while simultaneously executive producing the party’s much-ballyhooed “town halls” for left-handed Lithuanian mimes and other such demographic subsets, not to mention serving as the Voice of God, making the loudspeaker introductions of party swells.

Program note: Standriff is well qualified for that last assignment, having served as PA announcer for the mighty Sacramento River Cats. We’re looking forward to his intro of Manny Ramirez when Man-Ram drops by Sacto for a cup of coffee sometime this summer on his way to the Oakland A’s, the ‘Cats parent club. Couple of boxes right behind the home dugout will do us, bro.

Enough to make a hog puke: In a week when GOP mullah Rick Santorum issued a new fatwa complaining that the late President Kennedy’s famous speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up” (keepin’ it classy, Rick!), the CRP kicked off the weekend with a Friday banquet invocation that included the following language:

“Help us unite that we may take over the White House,” the minister said during the prayer, concluding with, “We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.” Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.

A wild and crazy party:  Sharon Day, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, gave a report to the delegates that included an update on RNC finances, making it very clear that former party chairman Michael Steele left the cupboard bare when he was voted out of office in January 2011.

Day said the party’s new leadership has raised $51 million since then, and also cut a lot of dough from the RNC budget.  While she pointed to the great benefits of firing people – “we laid off half the staff,” she said, a trifle  too enthusiastically – Day inexplicably made no mention of what reductions, if any, were made in Steele’s entertainment budget.

We can only presume that she and RNC chief Reince Priebus blue-penciled Steele’s recruiting trips to West Hollywood lesbian bondage strip clubs.

Key convention quotes:

“I think the party’s going to have to find a way to address this issue to be able to grow.”
–Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Whip and one of the few sane electeds on scene, when Calbuzz asked him how the GOP can attract Latinos without a policy providing a pathway to citizenship for illegals.

“Which one of you guys is gonna ask the question with the words “serial adultery” in it?”
–Jon “Flash” Fleischman, offering suggestions for our interview with Newt Gingrich.

“I personally think Dianne Feinstein has no intention of finishing her term.”
–Rep. Darrell Issa, predicting without a shred of evidence that Difi is running for re-election only so she can immediately resign and Brown can appoint her successor

 

 

Mitt and Santo Muddle As Obama Rallies Blue Collars

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Back in November, Calbuzz spelled out the reasons why President Barack Obama will be re-elected, chief among them the old political writers’ adage: You can’t beat somebody with nobody. And while the Republican knuckleheads fought to a close finish out in Michigan, after a campaign in which they competed to explain their opposition to rescuing the auto industry, Obama, delivered a rousing speech in Washington to the United Auto Workers themselves, showing the wannabe GOP candidates what they’re up against.

It’s been funny to watch some of these folks completely try to rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet.. The same folks who said, if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”  Now they’re saying, we were right all along.

Bada-boom.

Or you’ve got folks saying, “Well, the real problem is — what we really disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits” — that saving the auto industry was just about paying back the unions. Really? I mean, even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you know what.

Ouch.

Meanwhile Mitt Romney was still trying to clean up his mess after explaining a) that he and his family love cars soooo much his wife drives two Cadillacs and b) that while he doesn’t follow NASCAR as closely as some people do, he is good pals with some racing team owners.

And Rick Santorum was trying to, um, clarify his statement that John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up,” and to explain away his assertion that Obama is a “snob’ for wanting to give all children in America an opportunity to go to college.

So while the Republicans are busy alienating the vast moderate middle of the electorate, Obama is reaching out to those same voters and including them in the coalition of good will.

This notion that we should have let the auto industry die, that we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that unions like yours will buckle and unravel -– that’s part of that same old “you are on your own” philosophy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves; let the most powerful do whatever they please.

They think the best way to boost the economy is to roll back the reforms we put into place to prevent another crisis, to let Wall Street write the rules again. They think the best way to help families afford health care is to roll back the reforms we passed that’s already lowering costs for millions of Americans. They want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny your coverage or jack up your rates whenever and however they pleased. They think we should keep cutting taxes for those at the very top, for people like me, even though we don’t need it, just so they can keep paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Well, let me tell you something.  Not to put too fine a point on it — they’re wrong. They are wrong. That’s the philosophy that got us into this mess.  We can’t afford to go back to it.  Not now. 

Already, polls show Obama beating the strongest of the Republican general election candidates – Romney. And that’s before the election becomes a choice between two actual individuals – one with strong political skills, the other with an uncanny penchant for unforced errors and foot-in-mouth moments.

Of course, a presidential election isn’t one national contest, as the polls that make up this chart suggest, but a series of statewide contests for electoral votes. That’s why it’s likely to be somewhat close at the end, whoever the GOP nominates. But in the end it’ll be a choice between two candidates and so far it looks like it’ll be a choice between Barack Hussein Obama (BHO) and Whoever They Field (WTF).

We’ll take Obama and give the points.

For the record: Doubling back on our interview with Newt Gingrich, the first in which he was asked extensively about California issues, a correction and some clarification of his comments about offshore oil drilling:

Gingrich took issue with our assertion that opposition to expanded oil drilling off the coast was “a settled issue” in the state, and referenced polling from 2008, the last time gasoline prices spiked dramatically.

A PPIC poll published in July 2008, during the height of the gas price hikes, did show a bare majority of Californians favored offshore drilling, by 51-to-45 percent. It was the first time since PPIC started asking about the issue that more people favored it than opposed; the change was due to overwhelming support among Republicans in the survey, 77% of whom favored it. By contrast, only 35% of Democrats and 44% of decline-to-state independents backed more drilling.

A year later, as the recession deepened, PPIC reported virtually the same numbers – 51-to-43 percent in favor. A year after that, three months after the disastrous 2010 Gulf oil spill, attitudes in California had dramatically changed; by 36-to-59%, those  surveyed opposed offshore drilling. Although 64% of Republicans still supported it, only 25% of Democrats and 31% of decline-to-states did at that time.

We also checked with the Field Poll’s Mark Dicamillo, who said that the only time their polling showed support for drilling off the coast was the in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the era of odd-even gas rationing. Since 1984, a majority has opposed drilling in every survey in which Field asked the question, most recently in July 2010, by 61-to-31 percent.

Also, Newt’s assertion that 58% of people in Santa Barbara County supported more offshore drilling appears to be a total invention. Neither Baldassare nor Dicamillo even report separate results for Santa Barbara, since the sample size is extremely tiny. Furthermore, senior executives at Calbuzz World Headquarters of Marketing, Water Sports and Tide Pooling, located in Santa Barbara, broke away from a beach volleyball game to report that the claim is absurd on its face.

Quote of the week. Representative Darrell Issa, at the Republican state convention: “I have no problem with contraception.”

And thank God for that.

Newt: “Human Concerns” Crucial on Immigration

Monday, February 27th, 2012

While the California Republican Party over the weekend held another “Latino Town Hall” where its leaders sidestepped the central issue that alienates Latino voters, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spelled out for Calbuzz an immigration plan that would offer the GOP at least a chance with this huge electoral bloc.

In a sit-down with us, Gingrich said his party must make it clear that in addressing immigration “you’re dealing with human beings and not just symbols” and that he would like to see a “fairly open-ended” guest worker program that makes it easy for Mexicans to legally obtain a permit to work in the U.S.

And while he still believes the GOP can win Latino voters without fully embracing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he reaffirmed his support for that portion of the Dream Act allowing young people to earn citizenship by serving in the U.S. military.

On other issues, Gingrich told Calbuzz:

– He’s for more oil drilling off the California coast but that he would leave it to the state to decide if it wants to maintain a ban on drilling or reap billions of dollars a year from 50% of federal royalties on drilling.

– Despite being at odds with the majority view of California voters on abortion rights, offshore oil drilling, gay rights and more a Republican could win California by making jobs, national security and energy independence the salient issues in the election.

– Because California and Texas are holding their presidential primaries so late, no Republican candidate will have the nomination sewn up until the big states have their say.

The GOP’s Latino Problem: In his 48-minute speech to convention delegates, where he laid out his plan for $2.50-a-gallon gasoline and accused President Obama of deliberately driving up gas prices, Gingrich spelled out his plan for energy independence in excruciating detail.

But it was in his interview with Calbuzz that he spoke at length about immigration policy. This issue is not the single most important concern for Latino voters: that’s jobs and the economy, just like it is for other voters. But it is a threshold issue: that is, when Latinos hear that a candidate (or a party) is opposed to allowing those living and working here illegally to become legal residents, they don’t care what the candidate’s (or party’s) position is on other issues. They’ve already tuned them out.

Gingrich recognizes that Republicans have to approach the issue with some measure of compassion and practicality if they have any hope of attracting Latino votes. [Photo by Shutterstock]

His is not the ideal platform position that Calbuzz laid out for the California GOP back in November 2010, when we advised the Republicans to align themselves with the nine in 10 California Latinos who support a path to citizenship for people who have been working here illegally for two years or more.

But neither is it the head-in-the-sand attitude that state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro expressed at the “Latino Town Hall” where – despite excellent questioning from Univision’s Santiago Lucero – the GOP chairman said the party’s common ground with Latinos on the issue is “border security” that that the Democrats are only pushing the Dream Act to make Republicans look bad.

It’s not as if the CRP doesn’t have the information it needs to understand the urgency of dealing with immigration. Polling data prepared for Univision and presented at a convention panel about the presidential race showed that 83% of “Hispanics” live in 14 states with 256 electoral votes and that they represent 40% of the overall increase in registered voters since 2008. More: every 30 seconds a Latino turns 18 and while 52% identify themselves as “swing voters,” 39% say they’re Democrats compared to only 9% who say they’re Republicans.

What the GOP should not take comfort from is the finding in polling that immigration is number nine on a list of Latinos’ concerns, well behind jobs and the economy and education. The analogy is how women look at abortion rights: it’s not the top issue, but if you’re on the wrong side, they don’t care what you think about the top issues.

Oh, and by the way: the big Latino populations line up with battleground states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina.

Here’s a transcript of the Calbuzz 15-minute conversation with Gingrich:

Can the GOP win Latinos without standing for a path to citizenship?

Yes. I think you have to be…the reason, for example, I drew a line at grandparents is you have to send some clear indicator that you understand you’re dealing with human beings and not just symbols. And if you say to people we want to control the border, we want English as the official language of government, we want to actually improve the legal visa system so it’s easier to go back and forth, easier to have businesses, easier to have tourists, you want to improve the deportation system so if you have an MS13 gang member you get rid of them faster, you want to have a guest worker program, probably outsourced to American Express, Visa or Mastercard, ‘cause the truth is you’re not going to have agriculture in the Central Valley without a guest worker program and there are other industries where, construction, where you’re going to end up in a guest worker program, you’re either going to make it legal or you’re going to have an unmanageable illegality. Now we can argue over that, but I think it’s very hard to suggest that you’re going to run this country without some kind of a guest worker program. When you have a guest worker program you can put very severe sanctions on employers who hire people illegally.

So would illegals who are here now be eligible for the guest worker program?

They would go home to apply for the guest worker program.

So you’d have to deport them?

Or they’d deport themselves because they wouldn’t be able to get a job. The one group I said that that’s impractical with are people who’ve been here 25 years, who are grandparents – for a very practical reason: their family and their community is going to support them, they’re not going to deport, and I even got Romney to agree at one point, they’re not going to self-deportation of grandparents.

But the gardener who’s been here for five years, there’s no way that guy can stay here and become legal under your system?

Right. What the guy does is he goes home and gets a guest worker permit and you apply to hire him under the guest worker program.

And who decides who gets those?

Oh, I’d make it fairly open ended and I’d do something like the way that Manpower and other organizations that are online – you could run most of the guest worker program online.

So when you’re talking to a Latino audience, how do you explain to them what it is that you want to do that doesn’t sound as if you’re saying I’m sending everybody home?

First of all, the only people I send home are people who are criminals. And those ought to be deported and they all nod yes because in fact their neighborhoods are being threatened by the very people I’m describing. The other people will self-deport because…what I make the case for is that we have to become a country that’s legal. And we have to become a country that has a path that has human concerns. And most of the Latinos…I think (California Gingrich supporter) Teresa Hernandez has now got 17 statewide co-chairs of Latinos With Newt. And I think she finds that the fact that I’m prepared to talk about grandparents in a way that emphasizes family and ties things together really changes people’s attitudes. I’m also, for example, for the part of the Dream Act which allows people who came here illegally with their parents to join the military and have a path to citizenship by serving the country. So I don’t automatically say I’m against all that, I say “Look here is a legitimate way that young people could earn citizenship.” Because you could do it if they were back home and they came here legally and then they applied.

How would you characterize the difference between yourself and Romney on the immigration issue?

I don’t know where he is anymore because he’s bounced around but I think originally he made a play for the sort of hard-line, anti-immigration…if you look at the ads he ran in Iowa, they were clearly aimed at the hardest line and I think would make it really hard for him in the Latino community.

You’ve characterized as environmental extremists, people who associate with Obama in terms of offshore oil and policy on that. But that’s a majority position in California and it’s long been a settled issue since basically the Santa Barbara spill…

In 2008, when gasoline was at $4.00…

There was one poll…

…58% of Santa Barbara County favored offshore off Santa Barbara. But what I say, and I said this to the Chronicle, is look: California’s two senators drew a line and they said these areas are too sensitive and any development has to be beyond this line. Now there are a lot of different ways to do it, as you know with the new drilling technology you could actually use the current sites at Santa Barbara and probably quadruple production…

Slant drilling?

Yeah. You could quadruple production. This is not a safety problem. This is not an environmental problem. This is an ideological fervor on the left.

So, would you characterize Californians who oppose offshore oil drilling really viscerally as environmental extremists?

No, unless they opposed it in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi Sea, the sea at Norway. I said this in Florida…People in Florida, who are about to have oil drilling 45 miles off shore, because the Chinese are drilling in Cuban waters. And they’re going to drill with fewer safeguards and a lot less concern for the environment…So I started to say, let’s talk about the facts, if you rabidly don’t want your state to do this, that’s fine. One of the things I want to do is increase the state’s share of the royalties to 50%. Now, the morning that Sacramento’s faced with 50% of the royalties coming to Sacramento, I suspect you’ll have the beginning of a new conversation. … But I’d let each state define it. If the state says we do not want drilling period, fine. Then you just give up all the money….So the federal royalties…I’d give the same royalty Wyoming gets , which is 50%, which means California would have billions of dollars at stake. And I’d love to see how long a study went around Sacramento that said here’s how many billions of dollars available in the next decade.

In terms of Republicans in California the last pro-life Republican to win the state was George Bush the First in 1988. And on the choice issue or on the abortion rights issue, on offshore, on gay rights, on a whole host of other issues, what we’ve heard in the primaries and in the debates has been at odds with the majority views of California. How does a Republican win California?

You have to decide what issues are salient and whether or not you can make them salient. I think jobs, for example, are a big issue. The question is whether it’s a big enough issue to elect somebody. I think national security may become a much bigger issue. I think that energy independence is a big issue. We’ll see how it plays in California but when you think about depending on Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela for your future, I think you can make a pretty powerful argument you need to have an American energy plan.

So the broader economic issues, you think trump some of these other specifics?

I think $2.50-a-gallon gasoline will attract a level of attention that is across all ethnic lines.

The problem in California has tended to be, that for an awful lot of women in particular, that once a voter knows that you’re not pro-choice, they don’t want to hear what you say about the economy. And so there’s this threshold issue that has pretty much killed Republicans except for [pro-choice Republicans] Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenneger since 1988. It’s hard to envision how you overcome that.

And maybe you can’t. On the other hand, it may be that a woman who does not feel particularly threatened on that issue and goes down and puts in what might Mike Reagan sent me from Los Angeles yesterday was $4.54 a gallon, starts to say…

My goal is that you’re standing at that pump and you’re saying, “Let me get this straight. I’d be paying $2.25 less with Newt. Now how much does that matter to me?”…I also think you’ve got to look at the degree to which the Republican Party, by not being inclusive, by not having Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Latino Americans, et cetera, African Americans, then you get down to a fight only in the white population, which is actually more liberal.  A lot of those issues you’re describing are actually not nearly as clear cut in those other communities.

How big a problem, when you look at what happened in South Carolina, where you had this smashing victory, is Mormonism for Mitt Romney?

I have no idea…How big an advantage in Nevada and Arizona and Idaho is it?

How big an issue is it?

My point is, I don’t know. It’s not something we work on.

But you’re a keen political strategist with a lot of years in the business…

I don’t know.

Do you think California’s going to matter in the end?

Yes. I think Texas and California coming late virtually guarantees that nobody’s going to have a majority before. Listen, I came to this convention to literally outline why I think California will be in play this fall. I’m going to talk about energy, I’m going to talk about Afghanistan and I’m going to talk about putting California in play.

 

In a cheerful way, we trust.