Jewish World Review April 11, 2008 / 6 Nissan 5768
McCain not yet golden in California
By Roger Simon
1. If McCain wins California in November, he almost certainly will become the next president of the United States.
The Democratic nominee would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get to 270 electoral votes and victory without California. Sure, the Democrat could theoretically make up for the loss of California (55 electoral votes) by winning both Texas (34) and Florida (27), but how likely is that? Not very.
As the late Lee Atwater, a major architect of George H.W. Bush’s victory in 1988, said, “I can win without California; they can’t, so I want it.”
2. Winning California is going to be very tough for McCain.
On the surface, McCain looks like a reasonably good match for California. He is a relatively moderate Republican, he is strong on the environment, he talks about low taxes and ending waste, he retains a somewhat maverick image, and he could be popular with independents. He is, broadly speaking, in the same mold as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who will campaign vigorously for him.
But there is a one big difference between Schwarzenegger and McCain, and it has enormous political implications: Schwarzenegger supports abortion rights and McCain does not.
3. Candidates who oppose abortion rights do not win California.
They don’t win at the state level, and they don’t win at the national level. The last presidential candidate who opposed abortion rights and won California was George H.W. Bush, and that was 20 years ago.
And since the Democratic nominee is sure to support abortion rights, McCain cannot win California, right? Not necessarily. He may have one slim chance to win California if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.
4. Obama favors giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. McCain opposes it, and this could give McCain the state.
Giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is unpopular in California. Schwarzenegger successfully exploited opposition to such driver’s licenses in both of his elections, and McCain would have a shot at winning California by exploiting it also.
Yes, it would be ironic for McCain, a moderate on immigration, to take a hard line on this issue, but politics often make people do ironic things.
Dan Schnur, who was McCain’s communications director in 2000 and is now a political strategist based in California, says the driver’s license issue could trump the abortion issue when it comes to McCain.
“Even some Democrats who are pro-choice would turn to McCain over the issue of driver’s licenses,” Schnur said. “There is a pretty straightforward template for winning California: You do what Schwarzenegger did two years ago, which is run to the middle on the environment and most social issues, draw a stark line on taxes and an even starker line on illegal immigration and driver’s licenses.”
Still, Schnur does not minimize the difficulty of an anti-abortion-rights Republican winning California.
Republicans always say they will run hard in the state in presidential elections, but this is usually a head-fake, a way of getting the Democratic nominee to spend time and money in California that could be better spent elsewhere.
“McCain is better-positioned to win California than any other Republican,” Schnur said, “but it is still going to be an uphill fight for him.”
Steve Schmidt, senior adviser to the McCain campaign, was Schwarzenegger’s campaign manager in 2006, and he says, “Some people don’t really understand California. There is a broad middle there, and it will go for the right kind of candidate. Sen. McCain will compete in California, and I believe we will win in California. It is a tough but doable challenge.”
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© 2008, Creators Syndicate