What’s next for the California GOP?

The ignominious fall of former governor and cheating husband Arnold Schwarzenegger is pretty pathetic in itself. As allegations of still more women who slept with the “governator” spring up (ahem), there’s one question that many political watchers should be asking — what’s next for the Republican Party in California?

I know what you’re thinking: “What does a Hollywood actor’s sexual peccadillos have to do with the state’s political party?” Nothing, if you look at the question that way. But let’s be honest, until Arnold Schwarzenegger came along in that 70-something person gubernatorial race over seven years ago, the state’s Republicans were floundering.

Schwarzenegger did what no Republican has done since arguably Pete Wilson — unite the different factions of the party into one unified front. Even then, Schwarzenegger’s leadership in Sacramento was spotty at times. The state still faces billions in budget shortfalls and more runaway spending. And the GOP continues its infighting at the local levels.

The best, most recent indicators of that situation lie with the defeat of Republican challenger Meg Whitman by Jerry Brown for the right to succeed Schwarzenegger. One might say the state leans decidedly blue, but Jerry Brown? Wasn’t he governor back in the ’80s?? C’mon, folks. This guy gives new meaning to the term “also-ran.”

Taken a step further, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are probably at their weakest politically in years, and still no Republican challenger has given these two a run for their money.

A lot hinges on the national party paying attention to the largest state in the union. If left to those inside the state to continue handling how Republicans fare, it could pose serious problems come next November in the presidential election. Even if the electoral-rich state goes for President Obama, how the process of winning California unfolds could mean the difference between millions more invested there by Democrats. If the Obama camp faces any friction at all next year given the overall mood of Americans, it might be forced to spend tens of millions extra in a state that would otherwise go handily for the president.

And without a national, fairly popular Republican such as Schwarzenegger keeping Democrats honest, that could prove problematic for the national party.

Waiting until next fall to decide if the Republican nominee wants to contest Obama in California will be too late. Republicans should take the steps now to soften the ground politically for their nominee. That begins with elevating lesser-known but smart pols such as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) into the media spotlight. These small but smart moves now will help come next year.


Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.

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