Will California and Florida Clinch it for Rudy?
In a move that hasn't gained nearly enough attention yet, the Boston Globe reports that both California and Florida are thinking of moving up their primaries as far as the first Tuesday in February.
If so, it would dramatically alter the calculus of the early primary season. Rudy has been leading in early Florida polls by as much as 2-to-1. The state also features a huge number of New York transplants who probably voted twice for Rudy as mayor. Once solidly in purple territory, Florida is also fast becoming the heartland of new GOP, with a newly elected Republican governor (staying free and clear of the '06 tsunami), near supermajorities in the legislature, and an electoral count that will rival Texas by 2030. An early victory there would signal that Rudy has captured the heart of today's Republican Party and give him a certain measure of Southern credibility, assuming the Deep South is not as solid (and I don't expect it to be).
California in many ways has already provided a template for a Rudy victory. The 2002 primary for governor, in which Rudy-endorsed conservative Bill Simon beat moderate LA Mayor Richard Riordan, showed that the Republican primary electorate is as conservative as anywhere (not to mention Bush's victory over McCain in the 2000 primary). Arnold's resilience in the face of many of the same criticisms Rudy faces now shows that conservatives will accept a political moderate with star power. During the 2003 recall, you had the worry that conservative Tom McClintock and Arnold would nearly split the Republican vote, delivering a Democratic successor to Gray Davis. Didn't happen. Arnold received three times more votes than McClintock and won by double digits.
Perhaps it's time to refocus from South Carolina and Michigan, home of the most heated "proxy wars," and on to the big states that will not be kind to non-frontrunners (especially should FL or even CA take place on the same day as SC and MI).
(HT: Eye on '08)