Newt Could Sink CA for GOP

With Mitt Romney’s early edge in organization and fund-raising up against Gingrich’s growing attraction as the “authentic” conservative, it could be a long ride.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: California could wind up playing a decisive role in the GOP Presidential nominating process.

This time, the possibility is real.

The GOP contest is still unsettled, but—today, at least—it looks like it’s beginning to jell into a two-person race.

The campaign of erstwhile front-runner, Mitt Romney, has seriously begun to unload on a surging Newt Gingrich.

Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

With Romney’s early edge in organization and fund-raising up against Gingrich’s growing attraction as the “authentic” conservative, it could be a long ride, too.

If there’s no early knock-out on the primary trail, things could get really interesting, because the Republicans have adopted a rule requiring national convention delegates to be allotted, at least in part, by proportional representation.

(Of California’s 172 Republican delegates, most will be allocated to that candidate garnering the plurality of Republican votes in each, individual Congressional district; “at large,” delegates will go to the candidate who wins the plurality of Republican votes statewide.)

The attrition of “winner-take-all” primary contests is likely to draw out the GOP nomination process.

(Remember the 2008 Democratic contest, when then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wound up slugging it out, delegate-by-delegate, into June.)

Here’s another interesting scenario, courtesy of Tony Quinn, an editor of the respected California Target Book, which provides analysis of Golden State election races.

The December 1 Field poll showed President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 10 points and Newt Gingrich by 20 points in California.

Quinn observed, “The survey suggests that if Romney heads the GOP ticket, Republicans might do all right in [the state’s] congressional contests; if Gingrich heads the ticket, they could take a bath.”

(That’s not to say all this is set in stone; over 70% of Republicans who expressed a candidate preference indicated they haven’t made a final choice.)

In California’s coastal counties, which represent 61% of the state GOP electorate, Romney leads Gingrich by 10 points.

Conservatives account for 45% of GOP voters, and they’re almost evenly split between the two candidates.

Strong Tea Party identifiers are overwhelming supportive of Gingrich (38% to Romney’s 18%); but they account for only about ¼ of California Republicans.

Those coveted older voters, who account for 52% of the state’s GOP electorate, are basically split between Romney and Gingrich.

The congressional district lines drawn by the new Citizens’ Redistricting Commission have eradicated a bunch of safe districts. As a result, Quinn says, “[T]here could be as many as a dozen contested races in 2012.”

The Field Poll also shows Obama winning 50-40% over Romney, who is strong in toss-up areas, and beating Gingrich by a heftier margin of 55% to 35%.

Says Quinn, Gingrich is losing “most areas where toss-up congressional contests are likely.”

Thus, Quinn points out, the margin by which Obama wins the Golden State (there’s little doubt he will), “could…determine whether Democrats or Republicans prevail in [these] possible toss-up House contests” and, if “Democrats make huge gains here,” whether ‘[they can] possibly win back control of the US House.’

Not a bad upshot for this “electorally Inconsequential” state.

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