There’s some kabuki theater to presidential politics. For
that past 20 years, the rituals have included Republican claims that California would be a
battleground state. It creates a little news during the summer and gives a little hope to the
state GOP, especially candidates in the handful of potentially competitive
legislative and congressional districts. It may even throw a small scare to the
Democrats that money they want to spend in truly competitive states will be
needed to shore up California’s
55 electoral votes.

Eventually, of course, the Republicans shift their attention
to those same states.

This year started no differently. John McCain insisted that
he plans to fight it out in California
– and his campaign probably would tell you no different today. But McCain
officially conceded California
on Monday when he called for an end to the ban on offshore drilling and adopted
a Bush administration proposal to offer states a larger share of the tax revenue
if they allow oil and gas exploration. He plans to offer more details in a speech today.

Even with gas prices hovering around $4.50 a gallon, offshore
drilling isn’t an idea that’s going to appeal to the independents and crossover
Democrats that McCain needs to compete in California. A poll published in February 2006 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 80 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents opposed offshore oil drilling. A bare majority of Republicans — 51 percent — favored offshore drilling.

At the time, nearly 90 percent of voters said coastal issues would be important in the gubernatorial election. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who has a McCain sign in front of his Pacific Palisades home — made opposition to offshore drilling a theme of his re-election campaign, and no doubt is unhappy the Arizona senator has decided to make costal drilling a cornerstone of his energy policy.

— Jim Sweeney