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March 5, 2004
California In Play?

While President Bush still regularly polls below John Kerry in the Golden State, the LA Times publishes an op-ed today by Robert Grady that analyzes the state ballot results from this week and sees red flags for Kerry's campaign:

The state Democratic establishment, which backed and advises Kerry, also put its full weight behind Proposition 56, which would have reduced the vote required for the Legislature to pass the budget and taxes from two-thirds to 55%. ... The voters were not fooled. Proposition 56 was crushed 65% to 35%. It lost by well over a million votes. The message is clear, both for Kerry and George W. Bush: California voters like voters nationwide are overwhelmingly against tax increases.

If Kerry thinks this is a fluke, he might consider the results of California's recall election last year. ... Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock captured 49% and 13% of the vote, respectively. Memo to Kerry strategists: Republicans got 62% of the vote in this "heavily Democratic" state.

Schwarzenegger's magic is still working, as the two initiatives he put his credibility on the line to support Proposition 57, which refinanced the state debt, and Proposition 58, which mandated a balanced budget in each fiscal year going forward passed with 63% and 71%, respectively. So Proposition 56 didn't just founder because California voters weren't in the mood for ballot measures.

Grady, a venture capitalist, advises both Bush and Kerry on the messages that will resonate with Californians this year: free trade, tax reduction, economic growth, and the return of California's federal investment to California's citizens. Kerry's message, so far, fails on at least the first two and possibly all four, while Bush is already delivering the first three.

With Arnold Schwarzenegger building a strong political base on the Left Coast, it's possible that California could go Republican in 2004, especially with Barbara Boxer facing off against a skilled political opponent for the first time in her career for her Senate seat. At the very least, it's obvious that the Democrats will have to spend heavily in California to keep it in their column, and that helps the Republicans everywhere else.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 5, 2004 6:29 AM

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