President Barack Obama has been good to the California Republican Party, which now sees bright skies ahead for their political prospects.
With Democrats holding the White House, Congress, and the California state Legislature — all polling far below 50 percent in approval ratings — California Republicans are presenting themselves as a foil to what they see as the failing polices of their opponent.
Ron Nehring, California Republican Party chairman, is behind much of his Party’s optimism. Nehring has worked for the last several years to streamline the state Party’s strategy, suiting its message to a diverse range of people, talking about issues people care about and generating excitement for a state party that 18-months ago was in the doldrums.
Three years ago, when Nehring became chairman, the Party was $4.7 million in debt. Today, they are positioning themselves to finish this election year in the black. “We cannot run the Republican Party like the Democrats run government,” Nehring told The Daily Caller.
Nehring says that with unemployment 2 percentage points above the national average, the concerns voters have — taxes, spending, the economy, jobs and debt — are issues that have traditionally favored Republican candidates. “People very much want to go in a different direction,” he said.
Since October the state GOP has registered over 276,000 new Republicans statewide. “It’s by far the most aggressive and successful voter registration program we have ever had at the statewide level for the GOP,” state GOP chief operating officer Brent Lowder told TheDC.
An indication of this success is the GOP’s efforts in San Diego county, the fifth largest county in the country. Last month, the GOP flipped it from a majority Democratic to a majority Republican county, by 3,000 voters. “That crystallizes the type of changes we have been seeing,” Nehring said of the shift.
Under Nehring, the state Party is working hard to reach out to communities where Republicans have underperformed in the past. “We need to build stronger relationships into every community and demonstrate the value of our ideas with people of every background,” Nehring said, explaining that the Party is working hard to expand the message beyond the stereotypical white male Republican base.
This cycle the Republican ticket is exceptionally diverse and operatives are focused on reaching as many different communities as possible. Additionally, the GOP has launched 26 “Networks” online that highlight Republican diversity and encourage any and all types of people to join.
During the 2008 election, Obama vastly outperformed John McCain in his use of online technology. Since then, the California GOP has taken a cue from the Obama machine and harnessed the power of the Internet. According to the chairman, the California GOP is now leaps and bounds ahead of the state Democrats’ technology capabilities.
“We are kicking the California Democratic Party’s butt in every metric out there,” Nehring said. “Twitter followers? More than ten times theirs. Facebook members? 20-30 percent more. We have our own YouTube channel, with a little over 100,000 views and we are the first state party with our own podcast.”
NEXT: In the end, it all comes down to ideas
Lowder noted, however, that despite the great strides the Party is making on the web, the traditional ideas of the Party are what will make the Republican ticket successful. “You can have the greatest Facebook page ever, but if the Republican brand is not doing well it won’t. We are pushing it at just the right time,” Lowder said.
The Republican establishment in California is hopeful that this will be their big year. And those instincts appear to correlate with current political thinking — that a president’s approval ratings are related to how well his party fares in midterm elections. The lower the president’s approval rating, the more seats his party will lose and the more the opposition party will win.
California may well have spent years a dark shade of blue, but Nehring and his cohorts hope that by the end of this election cycle, the state will be on its way toward turning a more versatile shade of purple.