California, normally a bystander to the presidential nomination process because of its late primary, stands to have a major role June 7 when the Republican presidential roadshow hits the Golden State.
The election will be unusual for other reasons. GOP primary rules mean that presidential preferences of some California Republicans will count much more than others.
The winner of each congressional district gets three delegates, but those 53 districts have vastly different numbers of Republicans. That means that unlike every other statewide election – in which a vote cast in Redding has the same impact on the outcome as one cast in San Diego – a GOP voter in a Democratic-leaning district will have more impact than one in a district where Republicans dominate.
The math raises the likelihood that businessman Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could come out of California with the most delegates by focusing their campaigns in areas with the fewest numbers of Republicans, such as those in the Bay Area.
“Some of those little districts are going to be the New Hampshire primary all over again,” Republican political consultant Wayne Johnson said Friday, referring to the small-group campaigning that goes on in the nation’s first primary.
Exit polls in states that have already voted, according to a New York Times analysis, show Trump has received support from across the socio-economic spectrum, but has done particularly well in places with higher percentages of unemployment, mobile home residents, manufacturing jobs and non-Latino whites who did not graduate from high school.
A possible comparison is California’s most recent Republican primary for governor. In that race, the more moderate Neel Kashkari defeated conservative Tim Donnelly in 42 congressional districts, and Donnelly topped Kashkari in 11 districts.
David Siders of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.
The map shows California’s 53 districts, colored by the number of Republican voters per presidential delegate June 7. Hover or tap on a district for more information.
Map sources: Political Data Inc., California Secretary of State, U.S. Census 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates