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CA Republicans Change Delegate Rules. Trump Likely to Benefit.
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By CalMatters
Published 9 months ago on
July 31, 2023

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In a presidential year, California’s 2024 primary is in March instead of June, and the state is the biggest prize for the Republican nomination.

Over the weekend, the state GOP changed the rules in a way that appears likely to boost former President Donald Trump and to make California the delegate “mother lode of the nomination process,” according to one consultant I spoke to.

Lynn La

CalMatters

First, a reminder: Under the old rules, Republican presidential candidates could win three delegates in each congressional district in California, which allowed them to target specific areas without running an expensive statewide campaign. In previous primaries, multiple candidates could walk away with at least some delegates under their belts.

  • Mike Madrid, GOP political consultant: “The whole purpose of moving delegates selection to congressional districts was to increase candidate participation in California’s primary and empower grassroots participation district by district and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

But for the March primary, if any candidate can secure more than 50% of the votes statewide, they will get all 169 delegates, reports the Los Angeles Times. If no one wins a majority, the delegates will be awarded proportionately based on each candidate’s share of the statewide vote. Currently, California is one of 14 states set to hold their presidential primary on March 5, but it offers the biggest chunk of the estimated 1,234 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.

As the candidate who has racked up the most amount of campaign money to date, this arrangement does give Trump an advantage — but only if he remains the frontrunner, even as he faces multiple indictments and investigations. While the new system could also discourage other candidates from campaigning in California, some pro-Trump protestors objected to the move.

Dan Schnur, a professor of political communications at UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, said it’s unclear what prompted state GOP leaders to switch to this system — which he described as the “frontrunner protection act” — since other processes were also being considered. But he and others have a suspicion.

  • Schnur: “Whether or not there are Trump’s fingerprints on this change, it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t have happened without the campaign’s strong support.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for his campaign said Trump “looks forward to working with the California Republican Party… as he continues to dominate statewide polling by over 50%.”

Polls: Schiff, Porter in Dead Heat for Dem Nomination to Succeed Feinstein

Speaking of the March primary: The main Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Dianne Feinstein are taking advantage of the August congressional recess to build support across California.

Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland will be busy in San Francisco today, first speaking with the Bay Area Council, a business and public policy group, followed by a meet and greet hosted by San Francisco hyperlocal news site Mission Local.

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank will be making his rounds in the Central Valley. On Wednesday, Schiff is scheduled to host a discussion about the state economy with local business leaders, then speak at a Kern County Democratic Party dinner. The next day he’ll speak with community members and leaders about water issues.

And Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine plans an environmental town hall Thursday evening in Costa Mesa. Among measures on the environment and climate change, she is pushing bills to require oil companies to pay more in leases to clean up after drilling on public lands.

Schiff and Porter of Irvine are in a dead heat in recent polls. In a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released this month, Porter (19%) had a slight lead over Schiff (16%) among likely voters. But a June poll by Emerson College and Inside California Politics gave Schiff a 1-percentage-point lead over Porter, with 15%. Lee was in third place in both surveys, with 13% in the PPIC poll and 6% in the Emerson poll.

In campaign cash, however, Schiff is miles ahead. As of June 30, Schiff’s Senate campaign had more than $29 million cash on hand, while Porter and Lee reported about $10 million and $1.4 million, respectively. And it doesn’t look as if the momentum is stopping anytime soon: Schiff raised $8.2 million, or roughly double the combined total of his two Democratic opponents in recent months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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About the Author

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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