This weekend, multiple articles were published about the GOP becoming increasingly nervous about their 2020 prospects in California.
Back in July, CA Governor Gavin Newsom (who just won the governorship at the midterms) signed a law that prevents presidential candidates from appearing on their primary ballot unless they release their tax returns. In 2020, California is having their primary on Super Tuesday (March 3), so called because 15 states are all having their primaries that day.
Initially, most assumed this was an attempt to force Trump to release his tax returns. But he knows, as we do, that he’ll never win California. He doesn’t need those electoral votes.
But that’s not why this law is devastating.
What Could This Mean?
Let’s assume Trump isn’t going to release his tax returns–then he isn’t going to be on the California ballot. His voters, the ones who will crawl over glass to vote for him, will have little reason to show up to the primary.
California, unlike many states, uses a jungle primary. That means instead of each party holding separate primaries and then each party’s winner facing off in the general, ALL of the candidates go head-to-head in a combined primary and the top two vote-getters move forward to the general election.
If two Democrats get the most votes, then they go to the general. No one else appears on the ballot.
So if Trump isn’t on the primary ballot in California, and his voters decided to skip the primary, then it is the DOWN-BALLOT Republicans who will get screwed. In presidential election years, there is usually a big boost in turnout. But, Republican candidates all over the state, from the U.S. House of Representatives or the state legislature, could be facing unprecedented enthusiasm from Democratic voters just as Trump’s own actions depress GOP turnout.
They could get shut out of hundreds of races all over the state. Those Republicans who lost in the midterms who are mounting a comeback? Likely screwed.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but Trump appears to be willing to devastate the California Republican party’s chances to hang onto any power in the state because he refuses to release his tax returns.
A Few Considerations
At least 25 states have considered legislation to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns. But California is only one of two states that uses a jungle primary and it is that combo that is creating a uniquely terrible situation for the Republicans.
Multiple parties have already filed suit to challenge this law, including Trump and the Republican National Committee. Legal scholars are split on the constitutionality of the law. The California state senator who drafted the original bill worked closely with constitutional scholars to draft the bill, and feels strongly that the lawsuits will not prevail. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens as it works its way through the court.
But until there is a ruling, this law stands and therefore, Trump is ineligible to appear on the primary ballot.