Here’s a rundown on the sad state of the Republican party in California. Republicans haven’t won a Senate contest since 1990. George H. W. Bush was the last Republican presidential candidate to win here. That was in 1988. Barack Obama was reelected with a larger percentage of the vote in 2012 (59 percent) than Ronald Reagan in 1984 (58 percent). And it was long ago in 1976 when S. I. Hayakawa ousted John Tunney from his Senate seat—the last Republican challenger to knock off an incumbent Democrat in a Senate or governor’s race. Since then, 38 years have passed, a span in which some elections have gone very well for Republicans (in 1980, 1984, 1994, 2002, 2010) but usually not in California.
It’s pretty simple why Republicans collapsed in California. The state changed. They didn’t. The Hispanic and Asian electorates grew without attracting heavy GOP attention. In 1990, Republicans were 39 percent of registered voters. Today they’re 29 percent. In the past two decades, four million middle-class families have left California. The guess is a majority were Republicans or at least Republican-minded. “We are exporting Republicans,” Steel says.
The demographics are daunting for Republicans. The state is 39 percent Latino, 38.8 percent white, 13 percent Asian, 5.8 percent black. Democratic voters consist of California’s rich, poor, and Asians. The middle class is dominated by unionized state and local government workers. That doesn’t leave much for Republicans.