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National GOP pledges to delve into California races

June 15, 2010 |  7:10 pm

National Republicans, buoyed by what they see as a potential resurgence in California, pledged Tuesday to send significant financial, logistical and strategic resources to the state in coming weeks.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said Republicans in years past have treated California as a “flyover” state because of Democrats’ electoral edge, or little more than fertile grounds for fundraising.

“The days of just grabbing and going or just ignoring altogether are over,” he said after meeting with California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring in Washington, D.C. “We’re going to be full partners on the ground.”

Asked how much the RNC would spend, Steele chuckled and said, "a lot," but declined to specify.

He said the committee would pay to staff and equip offices around the state, and provide local officials with party voter databases, microtargeting lists and communications and research assistance. Such aid would not only bolster the efforts of gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, but also boost lower-ticket races, notably efforts to oust incumbent Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton), Steele said.

“We want to win in California by making sure everything that is needed is there for the candidates and for the party,” he said.

Such proclamations of support are not unusual in an election year. But the reasons for Republicans’ optimism in California this year include a historically diverse ticket topped by Whitman and Fiorina, two wealthy former CEOs who self-funded most of their primary campaigns. Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay, dropped another $20 million of her personal wealth into her campaign Monday, bringing her total contributions to more than $91 million.

Meanwhile, at a time when voters are feeling intensely anti-incumbent, the Democrats’ ticket is topped by gubernatorial candidate Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, who have 59 years in elected office between them.

Nehring noted that Boxer has yet to crack 50% in the polls, despite Democrats having an edge of 2 million voters in California.

“Under normal circumstances, this should not be a seat that’s in play,” he said. But “it is in play and that puts additional strains on their team.”

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles

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