Columnist David Barone has an interesting piece on the results from the CA primary last Tuesday.  In it Barone looks at some of the preliminary data coming out of the state and finds the GOP has reason for hope in 2012.  Barone specifically cites total voting data in a number of district primaries as well as actual results.

So does the GOP have reason for hope in a state that has not voted Republican for president since 1988, elected a Republican Senator since 1988, has a 34D/19R split at the Congressional level and elected a Democratic Governor and a solidly blue legislature in 2010?  Barone believes so.

If there was one state in the country that defied the GOP wave of 2010 it was CA.  At least in neighboring Democratic states such as OR and WA state the GOP made gains at the legislative and/or Congressional level.  But in CA the GOP netted no new Congressional seats and actually lost a state senate seat.  The GOP’s star gubernatorial and Senate candidates also fizzled despite both being successful businesswomen.

Exit poll data from 2010  at the total House vote level, Senate race and gubernatorial contest show the GOP’s deep issues.  They ran behind women, minorities, the young and middle-aged voters and barely cracked 30% of the vote in the state’s numerous urban areas (LA, SF, Oakland, etc.).  Unless this changes the GOP cannot hope to win a statewide Federal or executive race.

But Barone is right to point out the GOP does have reason for hope at the Congressional level.

In 2010 CA voters backed two major changes to their electoral system.  First, an independent commission (which was not independent) would redraw the lines.  Second, the state would adopt a jungle primary system where the top two vote-getters would, regardless of partisan affiliation, advance onto the general election.

Last Tuesday was the first time the state saw the system in action.  Indeed, despite the Independent Commission’s partisan drawing of the lines to favor Democrats, the GOP performed well.  The GOP saw many of its preferred candidates make it out of the most contentious primaries.  In the left leaning new 31st district the GOP received an unexpected gift when Congressman Gary Miller and another Republican were the top two vote receivers in the primary.

It gets better however.  If total primary votes is an indication of general election trends (which it could be) then the GOP is poised to do very well in CA in November.  In the newly created swing/marginal districts in the Central Valley the GOP performed well.  In a majority-minority Hispanic district near Fresno, one single GOP candidate received 57% of the vote.  In the Merced based district several Republicans combined for 49% of the  vote.  In a district around Modesto Republicans garnered 48% to Democrat’s 34%.

Perhaps most interesting is that in two races both parties are watching the results boded well for the GOP.  In the swing district Congressman Jerry McNerney occupies he received only 48% of the vote to 52% for all the GOP candidates.  In a Democratic targeted district, endangered GOP incumbent Dan Lundgren garnered 53% of the primary vote to 41% for his sole Democratic opponent.

Taken together these results show the GOP can still compete in the state at the Congressional level.  There are of course a lot of caveats with primaries Barone does not mention such as low turnout among independents, lower interest then a general election in a presidential year, etc.  Still, Barone’s assessment combined with the raw data does show the GOP may surprise in a state Democrats desperately need to perform well in to win control of the House of Representatives.


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