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California Republicans/Texas Democrats share a bond

March 4, 2008 |  6:06 am

For years, they've been a definition of political irrelevancy: California Republicans (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the exception, in so many ways, that proves the rule) and Texas Democrats.

But in a political season that has turned tradition on its head time and again, each of these subsets will have had its moment in the sun.

Almost exactly a month ago, on Feb. 5, the results of the California GOP primary pretty much sealed the deal in the party's presidential race. It hadn't been a great night for Mitt Romney, but a strong showing in the Golden State probably would have been enough for him to soldier on.

Instead, in congressional district after congressional district (the crucial battleground for distributing many delegates), John McCain ran first -- often not by much, but the margin didn't make any difference in the GOP's winner-take-all system. And statewide, he triumphed over Romney, 42% to 34%.

Two days later, Romney ended his presidential run and, with only Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul as his remaining rivals, McCain's path to the nomination became a stroll.

Today, of course, Texas Democrats find themselves ...

wielding enormous clout in what has become an epic clash between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. With the final polls showing Clinton in good shape in Ohio, the day's other marquee contest, the outcome in Texas looms as the race's major fork in the road.

A major Obama victory, which the polls now indicate is less likely than just a few days ago, will generate intense pressure on Clinton to cede the nomination to him. A Clinton win -- no matter the margin -- or something approximating a draw takes their battle into the springtime (much to the dread of some party leaders).

Pretty heady stuff for Texas Democrats, who haven't seen their party carry the state in a presidential election since 1976.

--Don Frederick