US & World

Some GOP Voters In Turmoil Over Primary Contest

Golden State voters go to the polls February 5 and political junkies are predicting a big showdown within both major parties. While Hillary Clinton is the formidable frontrunner among Democrats, KPCC's Frank Stoltze says that plenty of California Republicans are undecided or disenchanted.

Frank Stoltze: Like many registered Republicans in California, Robin Doran is just now starting to take a hard look at her party's candidates for president.

Robin Doran: Well, I don't know enough about them, so I'm just now educating myself. And I did vote for Bush, but I'm pretty disappointed right now in some of his choices. But I'm not that happy. And I've been married to a man who's probably going to turn a Democrat any day.

Stoltze: Doran's chatting after a Mitt Romney campaign stop in Long Beach. The 50-year-old says her Republican family is in chaos, and she and her husband may be headed for a political split.

Duran: We always vote our party lines together, to get those two votes. It's kinda been handed down from my family, and I kinda handed it down to our family. So we always go through the ballots together and make sure we're on the same page. And I'm afraid we might be canceling each other out this year.
Stoltze: What are his reasons? What does he say to you?
Duran: His opinion? I can't say it on the air. But I think he really wishes Bush would just get lost. But he says it in a very colorful tone.

Governor Mitt Romney: Don't let people get you down. The Democrats are looking strong right now. But they are overplaying their hand and we're going to knock them out, don't worry. We're going to keep the White House and we're going to take back over. Thank you! (applause)

Stoltze: While Romney sought to cheer up the rank and file, some California Republicans just don't seem interested in their own party's contest. Fifty-seven-year-old John Best is a longtime Republican who twice voted for President Bush.

John Best: Haven't even come close to making up my mind. I'm not seeing too much that stands out, honestly. In fact, I'm more interested in what's going on with the Democrats. And it's kind of fascinating if you stop and think about it. Ya know, Barack Obama has a certain representation. Hillary is a female candidate. This is new for us.

Stoltze: The Gardena resident says the Democrats aren't just more interesting than his party's lineup.

Best: I like the way they are handling the issues. They're really hashing it out. The debate is out in the open. And I'm just not seeing that with the Republicans. In fact, that lack of openness with the Republicans is becoming a big issue for me personally.

Stoltze: One example he offers: the Bush Administration's wiretapping. Still, Best says he's not quite ready to jump the GOP ship.

Claremont Graduate University political science scholar Alfred Balitzer says the national party's rightward shift, combined with California's election of a moderate governor, has exacerbated a division between moderates and conservatives.

Alfred Balitzer: I have not seen such a big division in this state in this state since the days prior to the election of Ronald Reagan as governor.

Stoltze: But Balitzer says voters seem willing to shift a little on ideology as they search for a viable presidential candidate. The latest statewide poll shows Rudy Giuliani leading Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson by six percentage points in California.

Balitzer: I know conservative Republican congressmen who are supporting Giuliani. I know Republican moderates who are supporting Romney. It's a very fluid situation.

Stoltze (interviewing voter): What are some of the issues you're wrestling with as you look at the candidates?
David Glickman: I think at this point it's "Who's going to clean up a lot of the mess that we've got?" I can't say I'm too excited with the current Republican in office, but I am hoping that the next one will do a lot better.

Stoltze: Outside Houston's Restaurant, a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, David Glickman says he's one of those Republicans shopping around.

Glickman: Ya know, if the Republicans can't put up a great candidate, and the Democrats actually put up someone who will do a much better job, then I'm in favor of that.

Stoltze: With four months until the GOP primary in California, Glickman sees no great Republican hope just yet.