Orange County less Republican, but still attractive to presidential candidates

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has gone after Republican party leaders for backing the recent bipartisan budget deal
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has gone after Republican party leaders for backing the recent bipartisan budget deal
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On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz returns to Newport Beach, a conservative stronghold that can replenish his campaign funds and deliver delegates — but the Texas Senator will need more than Orange County if he plans to be competitive in California's June 7 primary.

Orange County can offer up to 21 delegates of the state's 159 under the Republican state primary rules that award three delegates per congressional district. Candidates can win an additional 13 delegates if they secure the popular vote and approval from high-ranking party officials. 

Orange County, with its large Republican population base, will be prime real estate for Cruz, but Republican political consultant and strategist Mike Madrid said Cruz should spend more time outside the county. Specifically, in districts that have, within the last 10 years, turned Democratic such as Congressman Pete Aguilar’s district in the Inland Empire or the 26th District represented by U.S. Representative Julia Brownley in Ventura County.

“The reason why these are important is because there’s still very strong [Republican] party infrastructure and these are the voters — the institutional, conservative, grassroots activists who are active in the party — that tend to be the most ardent Cruz supporters,” Madrid said.

Professor John Pitney of Claremont McKenna College's Government Department said he'd expect candidates to spend time in Orange County — if nothing more than to fundraise. For Cruz, it could offer more, he said.

“Orange County overall is going to be a very promising ground for Ted Cruz if he campaigns intelligently and allocates his resources effectively,” Pitney said. 

Cruz won’t likely get the 1,237 delegates he needs to claim the Republican Party nomination, Madrid said, but if he does well in California, he could keep candidate Donald Trump from picking up the delegates he needs to ensure a win.

USC/Dornsife Los Angeles Times poll released Monday showed Trump had 37 percent of the vote among registered Republicans in California; Cruz had 30 percent but he’s seen an uptick among Latino Republicans. 

“It’s probably not a pro-Ted Cruz vote as much as it is an anti-Trump vote,” Madrid said, who co-directed the poll.  

Twelve percent of Republican voters said they would vote for Ohio Governor John Kasich. 

Although the number of registered Republican voters has fallen over the last few years in Orange County, they still hold a plurality at 41 percent, according to data from the Orange County Registrar of Voter’s office.