The road to the White House for GOP hopefuls passes through the Golden State this weekend as the California Republican Party holds its annual convention with the A and B-list of presidential contenders. Already in town after the second presidential debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, candidates now disperse to Anaheim with a list of rules and regulations for participating and practicing their stump speeches at the Marriott Convention Center. It’s an opportunity for several to get a do-over after lackluster debate performances or to realize time under the big top is officially over and go home.
So far, no one has been able to gain traction on the man avoiding any and all shared events: Donald Trump.
GOP Preaching to the Choir
“We can play a really influential role in this presidential nomination process,” said California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson. She is correct. With an early primary in March, the state may be the catalyst in selecting the nominee by delivering 169 delegates on Super Tuesday. The party changed the rules and now gives the candidate who collects 50% of the vote the whole enchilada. Delegates may challenge that rule at the convention, although “Nobody is seriously trying to repeal it,” said longtime conservative activist Steve Frank.
Patterson hinted how the hopefuls could attract California voters: “I think if these candidates are smart, they will talk about what’s happening here in California,” focusing on addressing issues such as homelessness and education.
Trump is slated to speak at the convention luncheon on Friday. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has an afternoon breakout spot, and Governor Ron DeSantis will headline the dinner banquet. Saturday’s lineup will feature candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.
“This race is quickly consolidating,” one GOP fundraiser, Charles Moran, stated, adding that a win in California would be all it takes. “I truly think Trump could take the nomination on Super Tuesday — then this is over.”
Trump: Catch Me if You Can
Former President Donald Trump is miles ahead of any other GOP candidate in the race, and as ABC reported:
“A record number of Americans say they’ve become worse off under [Biden’s] presidency, three-quarters say he’s too old for another term, and Donald Trump is looking better in retrospect – all severe challenges for Biden in his reelection campaign ahead.”
If Trump can dodge potential convictions after amassing four criminal indictments, insiders are owning up to the possibility that number 45 could be number 47. California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said as much when asked to give the Democratic Party response as to what was said and who would win the debate. “Clearly, Joe Biden walks away with this debate, and then Donald Trump. It’s just the JV team.”
The Golden State
California is not a friendly territory for GOP candidates. The last presidential win in the state was President George H.W. Bush in 1988. President Trump also failed to attract Californians in 2020 when he lost by more than 5 million votes. And that may be the reason that only four candidates are sticking around for the state GOP event. Others insist that Trump’s operatives have rigged the rules in his favor by giving the 50% winner all the eggs in one basket.
“The Trump team came in to rig the rules in their favor,” claimed former deputy secretary of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, Ken Cuccinelli. Not coincidentally, the same guy created the DeSantis Super PAC, Never Back Down.
But by the time DeSantis, Scott, and Ramaswamy speak to convention goers, Trump will be long gone, one step ahead to his next stop, Costa Mesa, to grip and grin and pocket as much as $23,200 per VIP couple.