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Anti-Donald Trump campaign forming in California

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A trio of veteran GOP strategists is leading a new California effort to deny Donald Trump the Republican presidential nomination.

With mail-in voting for the state’s June 7 primary set to begin in early May, Rob Stutzman, a Sacramento-based consultant who worked for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and recently volunteered for the Bush campaign, said anti-Trump forces hoping to act as a backstop cannot afford to wait too long to engage.

Stutzman said Trump’s nomination would be an “absolute disaster” for the party, and said he doubted the billionaire businessman could win in November.

“It would be disastrous for the country,” said Stutzman, who is working with Richard Temple and Ray McNally on the effort. “This is beyond a question of party. I think it’s about America, the Constitution and our standing in the world to not let someone like this get close to the White House.

“Frankly, even being the nominee – that’s not good for America, either.”

A pair of recent public polls in California show Trump leading his GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. But Trump’s statewide advantage would guarantee him just 13 of the state’s 172 Republican delegates. California’s method of allocating GOP delegates by congressional district, three for each of the 53 seats, would likely become an area that the anti-Trump campaign with deep knowledge of the state could take advantage of.

Stutzman said they have a variety of options, including using existing super PACs. They are talking to potential donors who he said have shown early interest.

“There are smaller-scale campaigns that can be waged effectively district-by-district than just blanketing the expensive media markets with television,” he said, pointing to the states where Cruz has been successful.

The Texas senator has developed a growing political operation in California.

California governor Jerry Brown lambastes GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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