A recent article from The Economist provided a compelling explanation for the California Republican Party's poor performance over the past several years. Namely, it has failed to reach out to independent voters, as well as to minorities.
During its convention in March of this year, Republican Party leaders decided on a mail-out ballot, pre-primary campaign to counter the effects of the top two open primary approved by California's voters. Regarding this decision, The Economist noted the following:
"At a recent party convention, the main topic was not how to reach out to independents or Latinos but how to get around new rules for non-partisan primaries that might favor moderates, and how to discipline 'traitors' who dared negotiate with the Democratic governor."
While California Republicans may have lost all eight statewide offices in the election to Democrats in the past election, Democrats shouldn't proclaim victory just yet. Looking at the hard data, the percentage of registered voters for both major parties lies under 50%. Democrats are seeing just 44% of registered voters in their camp, while Republicans are witnessing less than 31%. Even though disillusionment with the two major parties is being felt on both sides, it's clear who the biggest loser is.
Now, under the leadership of Tom Del Beccaro, the newly elected chairman of the state GOP, there is at least the recognition that the Republican Party needs to be more effective in its voter outreach. In an interview with the Danville Patch, Del Beccaro acknowledged in an exclusive interview that the party needs to:
"change the way it's been interacting with voters if it wants to be competitive statewide."
Relying upon a complete overhaul of the Republican Party's communication strategy, the chairman says he will seek to meet with and communicate directly to voters. Along with this approach, however, there is the necessity to court the state's growing number of independent voters and majority party Democrats.
"Historically, minority parties that come back do that by concentrating on core issues within which they have shared values with Independents and Democrats. If we're going to make a comeback we need to concentrate on the economy in California, government reform and law and order," he told the Patch.
While the California Republican Party faces an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of voters, Democrats have some work of their own to do. As I've noted previously, the California Democratic Party hasn't yet decided how it will deal with the new top two open primary rules. However, given that a majority of Californians approved Proposition 14, voters will likely be watching closely to see if the party makes even the slightest move to sidestep the new electoral system.
The necessity of persuading independent voters with an effective core message is becoming increasingly evident to both major parties. The top two open primary will certainly play a critical role in this transformative process.