Capitol Alert

Here’s what California might look like when Republicans fall behind independents

Steve Schmidt at the home of his parents in Wolfeboro, N.H., in a 2005 file photo.
Steve Schmidt at the home of his parents in Wolfeboro, N.H., in a 2005 file photo. NYT

Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist who advised John McCain’s presidential bid and helped elect Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of California, imagines a not-too-distant future where the GOP here ceases to wield the influence of a major party and instead becomes the state’s largest interest group.

Schmidt, an MSNBC pundit back in Sacramento this week for a panel on the presidential election, is looking ahead to the time when Republicans, who currently account for 26 percent of California’s voters, fall behind independents, who comprise 24.3 percent. Dominant Democrats make up 45 percent.

As the state’s biggest interest group, Schmidt predicts, Republicans will no longer be capable of electing somebody to statewide office on their own.

In this brave new world, he envisions high-profile contests between a “public employee union Democrat” or “coastal-environment Democrat” and a more moderate, “working-class Democrat.” “A Central Valley Democrat versus a Silicon Valley Democrat,” Schmidt said.

Meantime, the beleaguered Republican Party will serve as the ultimate adjudicator, Schmidt suggests, assuming a role it’s had in liberal bastions like San Francisco, where progressives butt heads with Democrats backed by business interests.

Asked how his vision squares with the recent U.S. Senate race, where a large percentage of Republicans refused to support either Kamala Harris or fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Schmidt said GOP voters have yet to become accustomed to the dynamic (also, virtually no campaign money was spent targeting Republican voters).

Concluded Schmidt: “It will reinvigorate the middle of politics, over time.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago