GOP 2012 Field Hits California, Which Remains Behind Obama

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: April 2, 2012 3:55 AM

Credit: kovacsf - Shutterstock

While the California Republican presidential primary is not until June 5, the Golden State is the largest electoral prize on the map and is bringing a whopping 172 delegates to the Republican convention in Tampa come August -- and this week the Republican presidential hopefuls started to focus on California.

While the Golden State looks strong for Mitt Romney, it also looks solidly behind Barack Obama come November.

Romney unveiled his California leadership team this week, which consists of two former governors -- Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian -- and 11 congressmen, including U.S. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and U.S. Rep. Mary Bono-Mack, the widow of entertainer and former Congressman Sonny Bono and current wife of Congressman Connie Mack, who is running for the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Romney’s team also includes 19 Republicans serving in the California Legislature. Three business leaders who ran unsuccessfully for statewide office in California as Republicans -- Carly Fiorina, Bill Simon and Meg Whitman -- are also on Romney’s team.  

“It is an honor to have so much support from such distinguished leaders in California,” said Romney. “This is further proof that my pro-growth message is resonating with voters and that Californians want a conservative businessman to replace President Obama. I look forward to their counsel in my efforts to bring back jobs and restore fiscal sanity in Washington.”

Wilson, who backed Romney in early February and ran a brief bid for the Republican primary nomination himself during the 1996 election cycle, when he did not even make it to Iowa, praised the former Massachusetts governor this week and stressed Romney's experience in the private sector and in the economy.

“This election is too important for our party to nominate a candidate without the real-world economic experience and proven track record that Mitt Romney has demonstrated throughout this campaign and throughout his life,” Wilson said. He added that Romney’s supporters in California “have already been hard at work spreading his pro-growth message and working to ensure that President Obama is defeated in November. I am proud to be a part of this team and encourage my fellow Republicans to unite behind the one candidate we know can beat President Obama and create an economic climate that will bring jobs back to California.”

In the meantime, Romney’s Republican rivals are also starting to focus on the Golden State. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania spoke in Fairfield, Calif., on Thursday. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is also looking ahead to California with a high-priced fundraiser scheduled in Bel Air on May 1, where the congressman and prominent writer Nassim Taleb will both be speaking.

Still, the other Republicans have work to do in California if they want to catch Romney. A poll taken earlier in the month showed Romney in solid shape to win in June. A USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll found Romney taking 42 percent of likely Republican primary voters, followed by Rick Santorum in second with 23 percent, Newt Gingrich in third with 13 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 10 percent.

But the poll also found President Barack Obama in very solid shape in California. When expanded to include all voters, 62 percent of likely voters in California said they view Obama as favorable while 36 percent see him as unfavorable. All of the Republicans were upside down by double digits -- Romney did the best with 37 percent seeing him in a favorable light and 47 percent in an unfavorable one, while 11 percent more voters saw Paul as unfavorable than favorable. Santorum and Gingrich are floundering with California voters, with 19 percent more voters seeing Santorum as unfavorable than favorable while 24 percent more view Gingrich as unfavorable than favorable.

When matched against the Republican hopefuls, Obama destroyed them in the poll. Romney came closest to topping Obama but took only 36 percent while the Democrat incumbent garnered 57 percent. Obama took 59 percent when matched up against Paul who took 31 percent. When pitted against Santorum, Obama took 61 percent while the Republican trailed with 32 percent. Obama did best when matched against Gingrich, taking 62 percent while the former congressional leader lagged behind with 30 percent.

The poll of 1,500 registered California voters was taken March 14-19 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent.

If the trends in the poll continue, it looks like California -- and its 55 Electoral College votes -- will be solidly behind Obama come November. There have been decades full of Californians on the Republican presidential tickets -- Herbert Hoover in 1928 and 1932; Earl Warren in 1948; Richard Nixon in 1952, 1956, 1960, 1968 and 1972; and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

Since George H.W.  Bush carried the state in 1988, however, California has veered toward the Democrats and has supported that party’s presidential nominee in every presidential election since 1992.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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