The Riggs Report: California’s ‘Stop Trump’ campaign
With mail balloting near, CA becomes ‘center of the political universe’
If California had hurricanes, not earthquakes, we might be better prepared for the political storm that’s headed our way—an electoral weather front that may well determine whether or not Donald Trump heads to the Republican National Convention with the presidential nomination in hand.
The state’s primary is on June 7, but the voting begins long before that, and thus the brewing flurry of campaign activity.
“Throughout the month of May, the candidates are going to be here,” veteran GOP consultant Rob Stutzman said. “We will be the center of the political universe. The national press will move out here.”
And here’s why that is important:
California’s Secretary of State begins sending out ballots to military personnel and overseas voters this Friday. Vote by mail ballots will be sent out starting on May 9. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is May 23.
Stutzman, who I’ve known since his days working in the state Senate, in the Attorney General’s office, and for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to use that time period to engineer a “Stop Trump” campaign. He believes Trump is unelectable in a fall campaign and is working with colleagues Richard Temple and Ray McNally to raise Super PAC money to target specific voters in key congressional districts, long before election day.
“We need a thoughtful strategy that is deployed early enough to take full effect in that California is a month-long primary,” Stutzman told me.
Stutzman said the plan is to reach voters through broadcast, mail and digital media. At its core, Stutzman acknowledged, the message is about “voting for an open convention.”
The last time that happened was in 1976, when former California Gov. Ronald Reagan mounted a stiff challenge to Gerald Ford.
Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon’s resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal, went to the convention in Kansas City without the delegates needed to claim the nomination. That led to a chaotic struggle, in backrooms and on the convention floor, before Ford ultimately prevailed in the balloting.
That same kind of turmoil could unfold at this summer’s convention in Ohio, depending on the California vote.
A recent LA Times/USC poll found the race is tightening among likely Republican voters in the state, with Trump at 36 percent, Ted Cruz at 35 percent and John Kasich at 14 percent.
California will award 172 delegates—most of those determined by who wins in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts. That adds up to 14 percent of the 1,237 delegates needed for Trump or any candidate to clinch the party’s nomination.
All seven of the national political conventions I covered were largely pre-programmed and drama-free, with the only real news often centered around who would be the nominee’s running mate.
This year, what voters decide in California could, instead, point the way to a hot and historic showdown for the GOP in Cleveland.