California Republicans gathering in San Diego for this weekend’s state GOP convention find themselves in a familiar spot: scrambling for ways to resurrect a party sliding toward political irrelevance in this solidly Democratic state.
The most telling question will be whether one of the top two Republicans running for governor — wealthy Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen — can muster enough support to nab the state party’s endorsement.
The seal of approval may be essential for either to survive the June primary and appear on the November ballot. Propelling a strong Republican to the top of the ticket could be vital to rallying enough of the party’s voters to help candidates in tight races down the ballot, in turn boosting GOP efforts to hold control of Congress.
Conservative activists also will spend the weekend strategizing over ways to plumb voter discontent, focusing on the GOP-led proposed ballot initiative to repeal California’s recent gas-tax increase. A plan to use that campaign to cleave voters from Democratic political leaders who backed the levy has buoyed Republicans, who believe they also could win over independents and disenchanted Democrats miffed by higher costs at the pump.
Republicans hope the confluence of those political forces will generate enough momentum to stave off a Democratic uprising in the midterms fueled by an opposition to President Trump. At stake are eight vulnerable Republican-held congressional seats in California that are pivotal to the Democrats’ efforts to take control of the House of Representatives, and to recapture a powerful supermajority in the state Legislature.
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