December 01, 2002

Reading State GOP Tea Leave...

written by California Republican rivals Richard Riordan and Bill Simon (username: laexaminer, password laexaminer). Beneath the usual speechwritten, everyone-hates-Gray, we-gotta-come-together stuff, there are several signs indicating that the "conservative grassroots" wing of the state GOP is in full retreat, and the Riordan/Rove "moderates" are now calling the shots. Exhibit A is their mutually anointed successors:

Republicans are currently cultivating a number of creative and energetic leaders who will guide our party in this new century. Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly demonstrated his potential in his successful campaign for the passage of Proposition 49, which will expand before- and after-school programs in our public schools.

And other bright young Republicans are emerging throughout the state. Abel Maldonado is a family farmer now serving as an assemblyman in the 33rd District. Alan Autry is the dynamic young mayor of Fresno. Lynn Daucher, a former teacher from Orange County, is a part of the Republican leadership in the state Assembly. And Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security advisor, will one day return to California.

These are the diverse faces of the new Republican Party in California.

A pro-choice immigrant actor, a Latino rags-to-riches story, another (I believe) former-actor moderate, a female teacher, and (rather desperately) Condoleezza Rice. Topped off by a paean to "diverse faces." Not a red-meat conservative in sight; and the first three were on the list of Dream Candidates floated to me after the election by a relatively influential Moderate. Later, Simon and Riordan emphasize that "We will be working to broaden the Republican base of support, recruiting new leaders from the state's many diverse communities."

Next, conservatives get the back of the hand for alienating independents and moderate Democrats:

Californians yearn for an alternative. Independents -- and even many Democrats -- were reluctant to vote for Davis. [...]

Too often have we focused on hot-button social issues instead of offering innovative policy solutions. Too often have we stifled healthy debate by engaging in petty political posturing. Too often have we capitalized on fear to gain a temporary advantage at the polls.

Emphases mine. I really, really wonder what Simon's face looked like as he read this final draft.

Finally, and less dramatically, have a look at what the two list as "the real problems of Californians," and/or what should be the state GOP's priorities:

Public education, affordable housing, health care, public safety. [...]

[E]conomic growth, public safety, outstanding schools, affordable housing and a better life for the sick and the poor.

This sounds more like the GOP of Arianna Huffington (as presently configured), not Bob Dornan.... Not that Simon could be confused for Batty Bob, but still.

What does this mean? I don't know, but I'll guess! Expect the conservatives to be routed at the state GOP convention this spring. Early money on Ahnold for 2006 gov ... though Maldonado is an intriguing choice. No idea who'll go against Feinstein. And where will the euphemistic new "unity" falter? Watch out for a conservative-wing revolt over "Hispandering"...

Posted by at December 1, 2002 10:56 AM

How funny. About the time you were posting, I was tearing it apart. :)

Posted by: Ann at December 1, 2002 01:42 PM

"Too often have we focused on hot-button social issues instead of offering innovative policy solutions. Too often have we stifled healthy debate by engaging in petty political posturing. Too often have we capitalized on fear to gain a temporary advantage at the polls."

Jeez, that sounds exactly like todays Democratic party.

Posted by: Dave Crawford at December 1, 2002 03:43 PM

Do you suppose there's any possibility that Ahnolt might run instead for US Senate in 2004 against Barbara Boxer?

Posted by: Steve Smith at December 1, 2002 08:48 PM

Steve -- I don't think so. Tough to play top dog in the Senate. Governor gets to be Chief. Can't imagine A-Nold delivering a fillibuster.

Posted by: Matt Welch at December 1, 2002 09:08 PM

I had hoped Bill Simon would fade into obscurity. It won't be easy to get rid of the neanderthals in a politically apathetic state. They'll be the only ones who show up at the convention. For Senate, Cox is the best candidate available, but, he probably won't do it. Maybe, Matt Fong will try for a rematch?

Posted by: Bob at December 2, 2002 01:10 AM

Moldando? He barely has legs on the Central Coast, he's not going further than that, most likely. He did get a handshake with Shrub at the convention, but, mmm, didn't they all?

Posted by: gregor at December 2, 2002 08:32 AM

Actually, with the exception of the "Too often" paragraph, I really couldn't disagree with anything they said. Of course they didn't say much. Governorship is the big enchilada in Cali and can't see conservatives and/or swing voters getting entirely comfortable with him for gov given lack of government experience, social liberalism/Hollywood/Kennedy connections and, ahem, the rumors. Senator is another story, and would imagine Ahnolt & Maria might enjoy taking out Boxer in 04 and hitting the DC party & talkshow circuit.

I do note Riordan & Simon's failure to note the most capable, and conservative Republican hopeful, Tom McClintock. Maybe because unlike the other GOP moderates and incompetents running statewide, he actually came within an eyelash of winning Controller job. Doesn't quite fit into the Riordan/moderate worldview.

Matt, I think your expectations of a moderate rout at convention are thankfully mistaken. Not that Rove & co wont try, but spending a weekend politicking takes a little more motivation than our typical upscale California GOP moderate has got. Simon lost due to inexperience and an unimpressive campaign style, not ideology. Ironically, its the moderates (remember Pete Wilson) who are more likely to latch on to those nasty "hot button" issues for lack of any kind of a principled agenda on taxes, spending, vouchers, insurance reform, free energy markets, etc.

Posted by: Lloyd at December 2, 2002 11:30 AM

Lloyd -- But don't you think that the tone & substance (including the absence of McClintock) indicated that the Riordan/Rove moderates have gained the upper hand?

Posted by: Matt Welch at December 2, 2002 01:28 PM

I don't know how politics work in Cali, but it's difficult for a Republican to win the hearts and minds of the people running as a moderate. One example: John McCain. Conservative ideas are important...moderate Republicans not only alienate the conservatives but libertarians as well.

Posted by: Allen Prather at December 2, 2002 04:57 PM

Allen -- I'm talking out my arse, but my guess is that it's hard for moderates to win *primaries*, though I don't know the data on that. It's certainly hard to win a partisan primary by running *against* the core supporters of your party, which is what Riordan did, disastrously. Bush ran to McCain's right for a few weeks in South Carolina, and from there on out did what he could to act "compassionate," and not alienate independents & centrists on abortion.....

Posted by: Matt Welch at December 2, 2002 05:13 PM

Point well taken. And I agree with you. However, and I would like to pick your brain on this one, I think Bush runs the so-called moderate route for reasons you've listed, as do many Republicans, but my point is that the Republicans win with conservative ideas that fire the base. No one can win without the base....whether they be Democrat or Republican. Dole could not fire up the base in '96...thank G##. Democrats...I'm not sure have a base. Politics is politics...and you and I get to have a blast arguing about it... In my honest and humble opinion...I have no idea what a moderate is...the center of the political specturm tends to shift about every ten minutes. Eventually, I think principal will out shine politics and com

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wer college tuition stuff, abortion on demand, minority "empowerment", and the new Hollywood Left powerhouse demanding copyright laws going out 100 years and restricting everyone from obtaining information they do not control; add to this the Trial Lawyers and you have the big cities tied up.

Rural interests are: better highways so their trucks can get to ports from farms, free water for farmers so they can grow water sucking crops like cotton, cheap labor from Mexico, lower taxes, and no union trouble.

The GOP is totally rural. Forget them.

Posted by: Howard Veit at December 2, 2002 06:12 PM

I don't know how extrapolatable the NE *Moderate Republican* strategy is to California, but it appears to have worked there in this last election.

The Riordan/Simon article appears to be an attempt to duplicate that success (at least, change the strategy that didn't work in California in 2002). Why not, given the electoral makeup of the respective regions.

From this *Moderate Republican* viewpoint, it sounds encouraging.

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at December 3, 2002 05:31 AM


I'm sorry but I don't think Riordan & Simon or their aides scribbling a few words designed to appeal to LAT readers while crying in their beer is a good indicator of where the state party is headed. In any case there were a couple of bites of red meat for conservatives if you read the whole thing. I do agree that social conservatives in this state will have to resign ourselves to being ignored, at least on abortion. Now, and most certainly 4 years from now, there is a winning strategy for a GOP candidate- attack Democrats on taxes & regulations, appeal to base openly on nerdy market oriented solutions, and ignore as much as possible the social issues. Riordan's mistake was picking the wrong advisors and refusing to shut up on abortion, etc., as well as not anticipating the Davis barrage. This is why I'm skeptical of Ahnolt and even Condoleeza, at least for gov. Appealing, yes, and maybe winners if they are smart and play their cards right but thats a big if. GOP has no shortage of capable congressmen & state reps. What we lack is a statewide, experienced, capable figure. But a lot can happen in 4 years- we'll see.

Posted by: Lloyd at December 3, 2002 08:44 AM
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