California could be the biggest battle of all for the Republicans. Not in the general election, since no Republican presidential candidate has carried the state since 1988. But in the Republican primary it looms very large because it has more delegates than any other state, roughly 169 out of about 2,467 (7%). Consequently, the stakes are high there for Republican candidates.
A new poll from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies has Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) leading Donald Trump by 17 points among Republican voters in California in a head-to-head matchup. When Nikki Haley and other potential candidates are thrown into the mix, DeSantis' lead decreases, but he is still first. In 2016, California was a winner-take-all state for Republicans. If the state Republican Party opts for that again in 2024, even if DeSantis' margin is just 1 vote, he all get all 169 or so delegates. The exact number of delegates per state isn't final yet. It is based on a complicated formula in which states get bonus delegates for electing Republicans to state and federal office, and for other factors.
For California's 5.2 million Republican voters, this is their big chance. Normally nobody cares what they think or want, but delivering a huge bloc of delegates to Trump or DeSantis early on could greatly affect the who the eventual nominee is. DeSantis understands this very well. He is going to California this week to campaign—no, scratch that, to "raise money for state Republicans." If Trump eventually figures out how the primaries work, he could spend time in California as well, even though he detests the state (and, in fairness, it pretty much detests him). Both of them can expect to be relentlessly attacked by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) when they show up.
The same poll showed that even Californians are not enthusiastic about Kamala Harris running for president in the event that Biden declines to run. Only 41% of Democrats want to see her run. Even among Black Democrats, only 56% are enthusiastic about her. But the issue will be moot if Biden runs, of course. (V)