Republican Meg Whitman lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Jerry Brown because of her housekeeper scandal and relatively poor performance among Republicans, not because Democrats' registration advantage made a Republican victory impossible, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at University of California, San Diego.
"Nothing was inevitable in this campaign," Kousser told political consultants, academics and reporters meeting in Berkeley this morning to analyze the race.
Whitman's consultants said after her drubbing that the Republican nominee could not overcome Democrats' 13-point registration advantage in California, and some observers wondered how any Republican could win.
But that concern was almost nonexistent just a few months before Election Day, when Whitman and Brown were running nearly even in the polls, Kousser said. Before Brown's victory, Republican candidates had won six of the last eight gubernatorial races, he said.
Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide, said Republicans must follow the lead of Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, also a blue state. Christie appealed to voters by attacking public employee unions and proposing massive spending cuts.
Whitman, who praised Christie, made similar proposals in her campaign. Quinn said she didn't make them well enough.
Kenneth Miller, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said Republican candidates can win statewide election, but he said their registration disadvantage is a real obstacle.
"The terrain for Republicans is just incredibly difficult," he said.
Miller said Republican victories in California will be the "rare exception" unless the GOP can appeal more broadly to the electorate, including minorities.