The G.O.P. in California has had to rely on candidates who can finance themselves.
NO MONEY, NO MOVEMENT
California is home to a large and energetic Tea Party movement but the state’s activists have not had much effect on the current election cycle. Timing, the size of California and the amount of money in the state are factors in the lack of influence the movement is having on the election.
Whereas Tea Party activists are helping elect renegades nationwide, California G.O.P. voters nominated the most moderate candidates in memory. These include Meg Whitman for governor and former state Senator Abel Maldonado, who was appointed lieutenant governor over objections from conservatives, yet who was nominated to run for a full term. (He is, however, facing a write-in protest candidacy from a conservative.) Carly Fiorina has embraced the Tea Party movement, but she handily defeated a far more conservative candidate in the U.S. Senate primary, which was back in June.
“The Tea Party has come along a little late to have an impact on races this year,” said Jon Fleischman, vice chairman of the California Republican Party and publisher of Flashreport.org. California’s size has made it tougher for grassroots conservatives to organize as quickly as in smaller states, he added.
This isn’t a state where grassroots politics matters as much as money. The G.O.P. has had to rely in recent years on candidates who can self-fund — witness billionaire Whitman’s record-setting $119 million investment in her campaign. California Democrats are so disagreeable to the G.O.P. base that conservatives are still influenced by arguments about supporting electable candidates. The mere mention of the names Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown offers plenty of motivation.
Referring to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and his replacement with Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Seiler, a former editorial writer for The Orange County Register, says, “We had our Tea Party in 2003 and it backfired.”
The big question now is whether the Tea Party is the real deal or whether it will turn into the national version of the California recall, where voters staged a rebellion, but one that ultimately left us in roughly the same spot as before it started.
Steven Greenhut is the director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Cal Watchdog journalism center and the author of “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting the Nation.” He writes a weekly column for The Orange County Register.