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Race Is On For Republican Nomination For California Governor

Audio

Aired 5/4/10

The Republican nomination for the California governor's race continues to get nasty. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

The Republican nomination for the California governor's race continues to get nasty. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, didn't pull any punches during Sunday night's debate. Why are you calling this 'a race to the right'?

LEO MCELROY: Well, the battle going on here is a contest between 'Well, you said once,' 'Well, but you said once.' Each candidate is throwing up old quotes of the other, and old actions of the other, to try to prove that they're not quite as conservative as the Republican voters might like. It is just a huge, huge dash to try to abandon any positions that might appear centrist, and that might turn off the Republican faithful who vote in the primaries. Of course, the problem is, is that the very positions they're scrambling to take now are the ones that would be very difficult for them to defend to independent voters and Democratic voters in a general election race in the fall.

DWANE BROWN: Well, Arizona's new immigration law has become big debate across the country, including here in California. How does the focus on conservatism in the Republican race for governor relate?

MCELROY: Well, it goes in exactly the same direction. If you're a true-blue Republican, leaping on the anti-immigration bandwagon, and that seems to be a big battlecry for a lot of the Republican right, then you're probably prepared to defend Arizona's new statute on immigration, and so we're seeing, for instance, Steve Poizner now leaping on board with it and supporting it, Meg Whitman saying 'Well, I understand what they're doing, but I don't think this is quite the right way to do it.' And so right now you're getting a line drawn between the two of them on an issue that might be a balance wheel issue. If the conservative Republicans, who tend to dominate the primary voting, really like the Arizona law, Poizner may have just thrown them some red meat that might help him in the contest to make up this huge lead that Meg Whitman's picked up in the polls.

PAMELA DAVIS: The Abel Maldonado confirmation for lieutenant governor sets up a rare Republican moderate versus a staunch conservative in the lieutenant governor primary. What do you think is the real reason the Democrats wanted to hold up his nomination for a while?

MCELROY: This was an interesting one, and I think a lot of people didn't spot this, but the reason the Democrats, in a lot of ways, like the Maldonado nomination was that this is the coastline district, which conceivably is winnable by a Democrat. And so getting him out of there gives the Democrats an opportunity, but if the nomination had gone through early there would be a special election in that district. Special elections get a small turnout, and small turnout elections generally lean conservative. So there was fear, that oh gee, if there's a special election, a Republican might win it after all and we wouldn't get anything. By delaying the nomination, Democrats were able to assure that the election would not be a special election, it would come at the same time as the regular general election in November, and in that they figured they're going to get a Democratic turnout, and they have a good shot at picking up this district. So it was 'No, we're not going to confirm him, we're not going to confirm him. Oh, come to think of it, yeah, we''ll confirm him.'

DAVIS: Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, thanks for joining us this morning.

MCELROY: You bet.

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