Most Republican presidential hopefuls skip California GOP convention

The Sacramento BeeMarch 21, 2011 

For just a moment during California's state Republican Party convention this past weekend, hundreds of GOP delegates felt the excitement of the presidential race gearing up nationwide.

Fox News commentator Frank Luntz asked the delegates gathered at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento to applaud their support for potential candidates such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The hotel ballroom erupted in cheers as the names of presidential hopefuls flew by.

Now that the convention is over, California Republicans shouldn't expect many more invitations for input.

The nation's biggest state has already become a Democratic bastion and a lost cause for Republican presidential candidates in the general election.

A Democratic-authored bill making its way through the Legislature could further shrink the state's cachet by pushing back next year's primary to June 5. The proposed move could turn California into little more than an epilogue in the GOP presidential race.

If anything, the just-concluded convention laid out the state's already humble role in presidential politics by drawing only two long-shot potential candidates – Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Nowhere in sight were GOP stars such as Gingrich, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, all of them mentioned as possible presidential material. Most of the convention action focused on how to deal with voter-approved Proposition 14, the open-primary measure, which all but cut out parties from the nominating process. The proposition didn't affect presidential primaries.

"(California) is always going to play a significant role in financing whoever the next Republican candidate is going to be," said outgoing party Treasurer Keith Carlson. "If they move the nomination back, of course California is going to be hurt by the fact that much of the nation may have already decided the outcome."

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