California Forum

The Republican effort to stop Trump in California

Republican strategists in California are planning a campaign to deny presidential candidate Donald Trump the number of delegates he’ll need to secure the GOP nomination.
Republican strategists in California are planning a campaign to deny presidential candidate Donald Trump the number of delegates he’ll need to secure the GOP nomination. The Associated Press

Buckle up, folks; the circus is coming to town.

California’s status of presidential primary irrelevance has been shed because the long road to the GOP nomination will certainly be unsettled when Golden State Republicans vote on June 7.

Pending results in New York, Pennsylvania and several mid-Atlantic states, we’ll soon have a clearer picture as to whether winning many of California’s 172 delegates would give Donald Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination.

But even if Trump is mathematically blocked from 1,237 by then, expect a battle royal here throughout the month of May for the treasure trove of California’s delegates.

The odds of defeating Trump at the Cleveland convention increase the more he is held under the majority threshold of delegates.

Why defeat Trump? Because he will lose in a historic landslide to Hillary Clinton in November. Trump will be the most unpopular nominee in history. Polling shows Clinton trouncing Trump largely because roughly 20 percent of Republicans would refuse to vote for the narcissistic, vulgar reality-TV star.

With that in mind, my colleagues Ray McNally and Richard Temple and I are using our experience as veteran California consultants to direct an effort focused on beating Trump in California and ensuring the delegates in Cleveland are free to nominate a candidate who can beat Clinton.

While Trump leads in polls here, his average has only been 35 percent, according to statistics experts at fivethirtyeight.com. When the GOP field was large, that percentage was enough to win earlier states, but now that there are only three candidates remaining, Trump’s base vote leaves him vulnerable as voters coalesce around Sen. Ted Cruz or Gov. John Kasich. That is what happened recently in Wisconsin where Cruz trounced Trump, even though Trump secured roughly the same percentage of the vote in neighboring Michigan, which he won.

Thirty-five percent is no longer making The Donald a huge winner like it did earlier in the year.

In California, it is important to understand that delegates are awarded winner take all by congressional district. That means there are 53 mini-elections that will take place here. This system gives enormous power to GOP voters who live in districts with few Republicans. For example, Republicans living in Nancy Pelosi’s district will distribute three delegates just like the Republicans in Kevin McCarthy’s district, even though the McCarthy district has four and half times more eligible GOP voters.

We are focused on helping the 65 percent of Republican voters who don’t want to vote for Trump to connect to the candidate in their region who is most likely to defeat Trump in their congressional district. Remember, neither Cruz nor Kasich can win the nomination before the convention. Essentially, Californians will be voting to ensure an open convention.

To that end, our effort will help inform voters of their optimal choice between Cruz and Kasich, depending upon which candidate is naturally the strongest against Trump in their district. Ideally, voters will be seeing that information from us on their TV screens, laptops and phones, and in their mailboxes as they prepare to vote. Also, we will strive to make this guidance available via Web searches.

These high stakes mean we will see the candidates constantly in California all throughout the month of May. Vote-by-mail ballots will be in voters’ hands around May 9, and the election will be underway. Cruz and Kasich are already confirmed to speak at the California Republican Party Convention at the end of this month, and Trump rallies won’t be far behind.

Much has been written about the difficult state of the Republican Party in California. It is a rich irony that California Republicans may be the voters who save the party from a certain national disaster in November that a Trump nomination would render.

Rob Stutzman is a Republican political consultant and former aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Contact him at rob@stutzmanpa.com.

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