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California GOP in Exile at Tampa Convention

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Opinion: CA GOP Exiled in Tampa

Former California Gov. Pete Wilson speaks at a memorial in 2009.

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If any more evidence is needed that Mitt Romney and the national Republican Party consider California a lost cause, one needs only to look to Tampa, Florida and the now-delayed Republican National Convention.

The state’s 341-members and alternates constitute the GOP’s largest and most diverse delegation.

It has been exiled to Tradewinds Island Resorts on St. Pete’s Beach, about an hour’s drive from Tampa, and in a flood-zone. (The location may have been dictated by the delegation’s size.)

The California delegation also finds itself seated wa-a-ay back on the convention floor—while Massachusetts, Wisconsin and a couple of swing states hold down the front rows.

This isn’t the first time California delegates have found themselves in convention hall Siberia—and it won’t be the last. At the infamous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, California’s largely anti-Vietnam War delegation was practically banished to the exits.

And here's another rub.

Romney has tapped former California Governor Pete Wilson as honorary California campaign chair.

It's a move that says a lot about the party's oft-stated goal of attracting Latinos.

Wilson was once considered a moderate, but, it can be argued, he changed the face of California politics and triggered the continuing, near-demise of the State’s GOP with his successful embrace of Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot proposal that targeted illegal immigrants.

That campaign “didn’t just lose a generation of Latino voters (for Republicans), he lost the electorate,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Romney campaign's choice of a governor 14 years out of office, who has become a symbol for the GOP's hard immigration stance, sends a clear signal that the national GOP has abandoned Latino outreach. Instead, the party is clearly trying to mobilize its conservative base in a state in which, NALEO figures, 24.4 percent are Latino.

The Latino officials association also says that 55 percent of California's Latino registered voters are Democrats, 25 percent are unaffiliated and 20 percent are Republicans.

Facing these numbers, today’s GOP has obviously determined that its money and time—and that of its Presidential candidate--shouldn’t be wasted here.

Even the party platform appears to deflect reality—at least California’s reality.

It offers up what one platform committee member labeled “the most conservative platform in modern history,” and endorses tough anti-immigration laws that echo Arizona’s controversial SB 1070.

It’s interesting that the highest ranking California delegate at the GOP convention is Wilson, labeled by columnist Ruben Navarrette as “the grand-daddy of anti-Latino politics.”

At their convention, by contrast, Democrats will spotlight California’s Antonio Villaraigosa, the first Latino mayor of modern Los Angeles-- the nation’s second largest city.

Villaraigosa will have the highly visible role of convention chair. (And it looks like the state’s delegation to the DNC will be housed just minutes away from the convention hub.)

California remains the ATM of American politics and ground zero for Latino political empowerment.

So blue California -- the ATM of American politics and ground zero for Latino political empowerment -- will continue to be coddled by the Democrats.

And it will continue to be the state that the national GOP would like to forget about—but can’t.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is a Senior Fellow at the USC Price School of Public Policy and the political analyst for NBC4.

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