The 2006 elections showed more forcefully the limits of a one-party sweep. Elsewhere, Democrats grabbed control of Congress and made big gains, but in California not much changed hands legislatively, and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger romped to reelection.
California "does tend to protect itself from national movements in both directions," said Dan Schnur, a former Republican consultant who now heads the state Fair Political Practices Commission. "That's not to say the national trends don't matter, they just tend to matter less out here than they do in other places."
Republicans received new cause for hope last month when Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo won a special election for the state Senate. Although he replaced a Republican, Blakeslee's win came in a district won overwhelmingly in 2008 by Barack Obama, and Democrats had worked to pick up the seat. Republicans credited the Blakeslee victory to a get-out-the-vote effort that they hope to replicate statewide in November.
Voter turnout models for November already show Republicans with an advantage over their paltry voter registration numbers, but triumph for their candidates still rests on Democrats staying home and nonpartisan voters breaking with tradition to side with the GOP.