For the first time in years, it looks as though California’s primary has a chance to affect the Republican presidential nomination. The primary does not usually offer much sway in the presidential nomination process for two main reasons.
Reason one: the June date. Primaries across the country occur between February and June of the election year, with the majority scheduled in March. This means that by the time California’s June vote rolls around, 88% of the Republican delegates have already gotten behind a candidate.
Reason two: the California primary does not award a winner-take-all as in most states. Instead, the state’s 53 congressional districts give three delegates to its winner. A candidate who wins only a handful of counties in California could get an equal or greater number of votes from a single state elsewhere. And they would only get three California delegates for it as opposed to all of the delegates from said other state.
In other words, voting in California doesn’t usually affect the presidential nominations.
That might not be the case this June, however, if the results from Ohio and Florida’s recent primaries are any indication. California GOP strategist Rob Stutzman was quoted in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 11, saying: “If [Donald] Trump wins both, or even one of those states [Ohio and Florida], then I think we’re into a [Ted] Cruz vs. Trump race and I think it could absolutely come down to California.”
Stutzman’s prediction may actually be coming true based on the March 15 results. John Kasich won the Republican primary in Ohio with 46.8% of the votes, while Trump came in second with 35.6%, and Cruz followed in third with 13.1%. Trump lived up to his name in Florida though and trumped the Republican vote with 45.7%, while Cruz took third with 17.1%.
Overall, a total of 1,237 delegates are required to win the Republican nomination. Trump currently leads with 737 delegates to Cruz’s 475, and Kasich has 143. That places a gap of only 262 delegates between Trump and Cruz, and 332 between Cruz and Kasich. With just three months of primaries to go, and the candidates in such close proximity to each other in the race, every vote could make a difference in the end.
Although it is still too early to be sure, California voters may not be wasting their time at the polls this year. As the competition heats up, the Republican candidates may yet turn their campaign efforts towards the Golden State.