Can you stand one more election postmortem? If not, move on because this is a reflection on California voting.
The latest fad among media folks is the red state, blue state terminology. It makes for great graphics on the page or TV screen, but its highly misleading.
California is considered a blue state very much in the Democrat column. Bush didnt even campaign here. His team considered it a waste of time. The big city vote in Los Angeles and San Francisco dominates; and its heavily Democratic. But thats not the total picture.
The interior of California is as red as any Republican could want. From Riverside to Redding, Bush WON by 16 points!
And its not just inland, either.
San Luis Obispo County (where I live) is coastal; but it contains retired folks from Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto and Madera counties in the San Joaquin Valley. There are also a lot of military retirees. Bush won here by 6 points; and both its State Senator and State Assemblyman will be Republican.
The Republican and Democratic State Committees spent over $3 million on the State Senate race. It got pretty muddy around here as both sides slung it by the handful. Yet despite spending far less, Abel Maldonado, who has attached himself to Gov. Schwarzeneggers coat-tails, buried SLO Supervisor Peg Pinard by over 19 points. But to show how split the county is, the Democratic incumbent, Lois Capps, was re-elected handily to Congress. (She also benefits from votes from Santa Barbara County which is even more Democratic in registration than SLO county.) SLO county also rejected an initiative to ban genetically-engineered crops by 17 points and refused a tax to help libraries by 52-48 percent. The former was the big issue of the election, with heavy campaigning by local ag interests against the environmentalists. By contrast, the library tax was low key. SLO libraries were hard hit by Sacramentos recent raid on county funds to fight the state deficit. Nearly everyone agreed on that. The tax was also very small and would protect the libraries from any future raids. Nobody campaigned against it (or even wrote letters to the editors about it); but in this conservative county, just the word "tax" is enough to defeat most measures labeled with it. And thats precisely what happened.
What was the top issue in the U.S.? It wasnt the Iraq War, the Economy, or Education. It was "Moral Values." Slightly more than a fifth of national voters named it on exit polls, more than any other issue; and eight in ten of the people who named it voted for Bush. And that includes inland California.
More rural and more religious in character, the interior of the state is quietly rebelling against some of the ideas issuing forth from San Francisco and L.A. Chief among these are homosexuality and same-sex marriages, along with illegal immigration. Inland California opposes them all. Bush gained by this backlash just as did Arnold Schwarzenegger when he won the recall campaign to replace Democrat Gray Davis. Whats more, the ten fastest-growing large counties in California are all inland counties. More than one million people have moved into them in the past decade. Bush won about 55 percent of the vote in those counties this time; and Republican candidates will probably do better in years to come.
There is a caveat, though. The Democrats still control the State Legislature. The Republicans were unable to make any real gains in this area, and Governor Ahnuld still has not been able to use his own popularity to get the Legislature in line to solve the states serious problems. As for his leaving the state to help Bush campaign and his talk about spit-balling a Constitutional amendment so he can run for President well, they may come back to hurt him badly.
There are a lot of Democrats in California, but it is far from the blue state that the media portray. After all, wasnt Illinois blue, too, on those cute maps of red and blue states?