Fun Fact: California has hosted the Olympics three times, twice in Los Angeles (1932, 1984) and once in Squaw Valley (1960).
It’s no secret – California has given its 55 electoral votes to Democratic candidates since 1992, but with a sizeable 5.4 million registered Republicans (enough to fill the entire state of Colorado), and the largest number of delegates to the Republican National Convention, the home state of Ronald Reagan remains undeniably important to the nominating process for any candidate who wants to be successful on the national stage. With a relatively late June primary, Californians have arguably had a lesser effect on the nominating process than other states with earlier primaries. Californians have selected the eventual nominee for the past five cycles. The nation’s most populous state retains, however, a critical role in the nomination process. The Golden State is a vital and lucrative fundraising stop for candidates looking to build momentum and secure much-needed funds for their campaigns. California’s numerous wealthy donors helped to propel Mitt Romney to the win the nomination in 2012 and they are likely to serve the same purpose in 2016. Republican candidates serious about clinching their party’s nomination and looking to infuse monetary lifeblood into their campaigns will have to be vetted across the state, from fundraising events in Silicon Valley, to private gatherings in Orange County, in what the Los Angeles Times describes as the state’s “invisible primary,” a formidable contest where candidates vie for the financial backing of the state’s donors.
Several candidates have already made inroads into California for fundraising and campaigning purposes. Carly Fiorina, the outright star of the first GOP debate, is no stranger to the Golden State, as she ran unsuccessfully for one of the state’s Senate seats in 2010. Fiorina managed to generate some excitement, given her business leadership as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and credentials as a social moderate, but ultimately lost to Barbara Boxer by ten points. Fiorina has leftover support in the state, but others say her run left a bad taste in the mouth of many. Jeb Bush has already attracted support from some of the state’s chief donors, but may have an uphill battle the longer the race for frontrunner lasts. Meanwhile, Christie, Rubio, and others have set up campaign infrastructure to facilitate fundraising while Rand Paul has even set up field offices in the state.
Similar to the rest of the country, the race remains hotly contested in California, but several things are certain. With an unprecedented drought and rampant wildfires desiccating the state, environmental issues are of paramount importance to Californians. California is also struggling with mounting budget deficits, a cash-strapped University of California system, and stagnant economic growth. All of these issues will be on the minds of California voters come 2016, and the on the minds of Republicans when they hit the polls in June to select their party’s next nominee.
California State Chair Sam Gibson, Class of 2017, is a History and Politics double major.