LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
In this country, Republicans are preparing for a handful of big primaries. The biggest comes in California, which means California Republicans are getting special attention. They're badly outnumbered in that blue state, but their voices may finally decide the GOP nomination. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE, BYLINE: California Republicans aren't used to all this attention. That's because just 27 percent of California voters are registered with the party. But the few in number may be mighty in impact. California will be Donald Trump's last chance to either win the delegates he needs to clinch or fall short and fight it out at the national convention in July.
JIM BRULTE: It's very exciting for California to actually have a voice.
JAFFE: That's state Republican Party chair Jim Brulte. He says that even though California has become reliably Democratic in presidential contests, the enthusiasm generated at this weekend's convention may have dividends for California Republicans down the line and down the ballot.
BRULTE: Our delegates are very excited. And that will add to their encouragement as they go back to their communities to work to rebuild our party from the ground up.
JAFFE: There will be about 1,700 officeholders and grassroots activists at the state convention. And Donald Trump will kick off the proceedings today with a lunchtime speech. But with his criticism of the war in Iraq, his blaming the Bush administration for 9/11 and his occasional kind words about Planned Parenthood, he's not necessarily the natural candidate for this crowd, says Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
DAN SCHNUR: The Republicans who attend their state party convention are the truest of the true blue - or the true red I suppose, in this case. They are the most ideologically intense and the most ideologically extreme members of their party.
JAFFE: Tomorrow, those delegates will hear from Ted Cruz at lunch and at dinner from his recently announced vice presidential pick - presuming he ever gets to pick - Carly Fiorina. At dinner tonight, they'll hear from John Kasich.
RICHARD TEMPLE: There's lots of opportunities for both Kasich and Cruz to do well in California because we are a winner-take-all by congressional district.
JAFFE: That's Republican political consultant Richard Temple. He says that each congressional district won by Kasich or Cruz means three delegates that Trump won't get. He's joined forces with a couple of other veteran political consultants in a group called Victory California. They want to keep Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates he needs to sew up the nomination.
TEMPLE: And we have the upper hand in that we actually live and work here in California and know the state pretty well. We know these individual congressional districts. We know what kind of voters that live there by their income level, education level, marital status.
JAFFE: And Temple will be at the convention this weekend, hoping to convince influential Republicans from many of those congressional districts to vote for anyone but Trump and force an open convention this summer. Of course, a national organization called Our Principles PAC has been trying to stop Trump for a while now without much to show for it. And in California, Trump is way ahead in the polls. Whatever the outcome in the primary, the competition on display at this weekend's state convention could help revive the fortunes of the struggling Republican Party in California, says political analyst Dan Schnur. But, he says, it's a double-edged sword.
SCHNUR: On one hand, it's going to bring the party an amount of attention that it has not received in many years. On the other hand, the types of voters who Republicans need in order to become a competitive party in California once again are not the kind of voters who are going to be attracted to either a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump message.
JAFFE: For California Republicans, that's a long-term issue this. This weekend's forecast calls for delegates to enjoy the warmth of the national spotlight and a little love from their presidential candidates because once the general election starts, they're unlikely to see much of their nominee in solidly-blue California. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
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