McCarthy’s fall leaves state Republicans in bind

Successor may bring in less money, even as Democrats try to tie incumbents to new speaker’s extremism.

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WASHINGTON — Since House Republicans unanimously elected Louisiana’s Rep. Mike Johnson as speaker last week, the GOP has sought to portray itself as an emboldened party willing to battle President Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But for California Republicans, Johnson’s election presents a host of potential problems that could make trying to survive in a deep-blue state even harder than it already was.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster is the first of those challenges. McCarthy’s fundraising allies have said they will work with Johnson to ensure the money continues to pour into Republicans’ coffers. But Johnson is relatively unproven as a fundraiser, and McCarthy, who pulled in more than $500 million last election cycle, rose to the top of his party in part because of his ability to rake in dough.

The loss of McCarthy from upper leadership could have especially dire consequences for the California Republican Party, which has long relied on him to keep money coming into the Golden State, said Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump Republican consultant who’s become a critic of the party.

“Kevin McCarthy was the last card holding up the house that we call the California Republican Party,” Madrid said. “He was the last reason any money — any serious money — was actually moving through the operation.”

Now that McCarthy is out as speaker, “that money is going to dry up very, very quickly,” Madrid added. “The state party is going to have a very difficult time keeping its head above water while it’s already sinking.”

Even before his first election to Congress in 2006, McCarthy demonstrated his value by raising money and sending funds to fellow candidates and the National Republican Congressional Committee. As he rose the ranks in party leadership, donors were more eager to hand over their cash. This was a godsend to the state party, which had struggled to raise enough money to field competitive candidates in safer Democratic districts.

Madrid said it’s very unlikely that candidates in California’s most competitive districts will see their bank accounts dry up. Donors in and outside the state will continue giving to protect the five Republicans who hold districts that President Biden won in 2020 — Young Kim of Anaheim Hills, David Valadao of Hanford, Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, Michelle Steel of Seal Beach and John Duarte of Modesto.

If donors don’t deliver for those members, the GOP could lose its House majority.

But, Madrid said, for Republicans in safe districts, donors are unlikely to want to invest, since they are unlikely to see anything change.

Even if the money keeps flowing, California Republicans have another problem: Democrats are eager to tie them to the deeply archconservative Louisiana Republican they’ve elevated to the post second in line for the presidency.

“Johnson is as extreme as they come. He led the plot to overthrow the 2020 election. He’s a Trump loyalist. Above all, he’s a MAGA extremist,” a new ad from the Congressional Integrity Project, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit, warns Californians.

“This is who John Duarte voted for,” the ad continues. “Tell him to stop putting MAGA over the American people.”

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report changed its assessment of Valadao’s race from leaning Republican to “toss-up” on Tuesday.

Dave Wasserman, a senior editor and elections analyst at Cook, wrote that the fight over the speakership had “supercharged House Democrats’ confidence that they can flip the five seats they need to reclaim the chamber by convincing swing voters that ‘dysfunctional’ Republicans can’t be trusted with the keys to power.”

And Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a news release that “Californians are eager to reject the extremism that [Valadao has] been enabling.”

That sort of attack may have some resonance in California. Although McCarthy may have been unpopular with Democrats, he was a Californian. The differences between his home of Bakersfield and the rest of the state are not as vast as the differences between California and the Deep South.

Though McCarthy declined to vote to certify some states’ presidential election results in 2020, Johnson went a step further, rallying more than 100 Republicans behind his brief endorsing a lawsuit to overturn the election. He has repeatedly backed measures to ban abortion nationwide, and previously worked for a nonprofit — labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — that defended state-sanctioned sterilization of transgender people. Such viewpoints are at odds with many swing district voters.

But Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the state GOP, doesn’t think connecting vulnerable California Republicans to Johnson will go far with voters.

“I don’t think the ideological views of the speaker really matter at all,” he said. “It’s not clear to me that the positions on the issues of the new speaker are really any different than the positions of the issues of the old speaker.”

Of Republicans surveyed in an October Economist/YouGov poll, 38% said they wanted House members to back the speaker candidate supported by the majority of the GOP caucus even if they disagreed with the nominee, while 33% of Republicans said they should not.

“I don’t think they’re going to judge their member of Congress based on who their party put forward as speaker,” Fleischman said. “If there’s any potential for impact, it’s not going to be [due to] the views of the congressman from Louisiana on the issues.”

Democratic groups may have an easier time tying the lawmakers to former President Trump, he argued. Trump is the likely GOP presidential nominee, is very popular among the GOP base, but is still deeply unpopular among swing voters.

“These incumbents are going to have to run under the banner of Trump for president,” Fleischman said.

Still, Republicans and their allies will seek to localize races and focus on specific issues to make clear the role their candidates could play in Washington.

“Californians demand relief from the surging cost of living, gas prices and violent crime fueled by extreme left-wing policies in D.C. and Sacramento,” Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ben Petersen said in a statement.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times


  1. Expect 2024 to be awash in Democratic ballot harvesting, massive support for it among the left and the way they turned some formerly red districts to blue in California in 2020. There should be a law that you are not allowed to canvass every memory care facility with “we want to help them get to vote” mantra, where the ballots are marked for every Democrat for people who don’t even know their own name anymore. There ought to be a law controlling where ballot boxes are located (preferably inside an area where there are many other people to watch, and not open in the middle of the night). But this is California, and such laws would be seen as somehow interfering with the right to vote, not as attempts to make elections more fair. It’s only important to ensure elections are “fair” for the Democrats.

  2. Nancy Cochran says

    The so-called Republicans certainly are quick to call the new speaker extreme. They sound just like Democrats. Too many of them are rinos intent on holding on to their own positions of power, and the left couldn’t be happier to see CA rino ‘leaders’ helping CA democrats. The new speaker holds true Republican values and is already accomplishing good things for the Republican party and our country. I urge these rinos to start doing likewise and stop being the tool of the Democrat/Marxists.

  3. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    How much of the $500 million that Rep. Kevin McCarthy raised was used AGAINST America First Patriot candidates to help elect/re-elect RINOs?

    Raising all that money to undermine America First candidates and elect RINOs is a major reason the United States is in this mess. Another reason is that the spineless Republican National Committee (along with CAGOP) didn’t push back at the many reported incidents of election fraud that gave us Joe “Big Guy” Biden. How much better will the CAGOP be in 2024 at preventing election fraud?

    There is a reason I sign many letters and emails as “Robin from Communist California.”

  4. It would be nice if the California republican party actually ran on republican values. The main reason they lose is because they are democrat lite. If your going to be with any balls and have no fight. Why vote or support them? Hey even the democrats in this state know their party absolutely sucks ass. With high taxes, high crime, and a host of other problems that the democrat party owns. People are looking for real change. Not same old same old. Hey the republican party leaders can fool themselves with their B.S. democrat lite stuff. But not us. What has the California republican party really done to reach out??

  5. Ca. is the bluest of blue states. It is controlled by Los Angeles, San Fran and Sacramento. The rest of the state has no real say. We need the State of Jefferson project to rise and become reality.

    • Nancy Cochran says

      Ballot fraud and media bias perpetuate CA misinformation and voting. It is no coincidence that voter turnout in CA is low because of these factors.

  6. Let the Democrats caterwaul and wail; they always do. No matter who heads up the California contingent of the Republican Party they’ll be tarnished, defamed, and characterised with all the shopworn shibboleths we’ve become accustomed to. The reason California is a “blue” state is in fact, ballot harvesting and vote-by-mail, along with drop boxes for ballots. What good did all that fund-raising ability do for California Republicans? They were asleep at the wheel when Democrats passed those new “voting” procedures. If we were able to return to one-day voting, we’d discover that this state is closer to 50/50 with maybe even a slight tilt to the right, but we’ve lost this race and the Democrats continue to outsmart us. First it was swallowing up the 18-to-21 year-old college vote (after carpet bombing the educational establishment with left-wing garbage), then mail-in, then harvesting, then drop boxes. Pretty soon there’ll be an Office of Ombudsman who’ll “help” voters fill in their ballots. I liked McCarthy and was pleased that he came from California and became Speaker, but in the end he was too eager to please… the Democrat Party. Change is good and boy do we need to change. It would take you several lifetimes to count to 34 trillion but McCarthy didn’t seem worried about it. I am, and you should be too.

  7. I agree with commenters Carrie, Nancy, Robin, and Mike. These are more representative of Capital Review’s readers. Why do you quote the likes of Fleischman, The Flesh Peddler, and Mike Madrid, who is billed as an anti-Trump consultant? Who cares what the consulting class thinks? They are sucking at the teat of the political process and care only about the $$$. The people — as in “We, The People,” — care more about good governance and policy and how proper and principled implementation of both will improve the lives of freedom-loving Americans. Perhaps the real reason the California Republican Party has been struggling is that it listens more to the consulting class than to the people it purports to represent. Get back to the basics. Listen to the likes of Mike Johnson. Get behind America First candidates, like Donald Trump. The Capital Review needs to expand its myopic selection of potential quotables to reflect the hard pull right that this country needs to just to affect a meager course correction. The people are smarter than you think. At this point, they can see right through your manipulation. It’s about time and it’s refreshing.

  8. Bravo Deborah!
    Over 40% of California’s budget still goes to “Social Services” aka “Vote Buying”. With the increasingly inevitable and predictable California budget shortfalls it will be very interesting to see if a decline of unearned benefits will be a wake up call to dependent democrat voters.
    Hope so.

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