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California and 'left coast' bucking the pro-GOP election trend?

In some key Senate and governors' races, the 'left coast' of California, Washington, and Oregon isn't tilting toward GOP as much as the rest of the country. Why not?

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"But now, as the rest of the country and the conservative Democrats and Independents continue to move away from this administration and Washington, the more liberal Democrats are shaking off their reluctance and getting back in the game to support the incumbents they voted into office in 2008."

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Other analysts say the trend goes beyond California: "It may be the West Coast, not just California, that is out of touch with the rest of the country," says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. Noting that senior US Sen. Patty Murray is expected to win against a strong GOP challenger in Washington State, and Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden has a comfortable lead, Mr. Stern says "the West Coast is sometimes called the left coast. It may reinforce its name this year."

The reason California is bucking the national GOP trend also has to do with race, demographics, and social trends, according to Hal Dash, chief executive officer of Cerrell Associates, a Democratic consulting firm.

"We are the biggest multiethnic and multicultural state in the US," he says, "with large percentages of Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and African-Americans, which tend to register Democratic."

The most recent SurveyUSA poll showed Mr. Brown with a 24-point margin over Ms. Whitman among Latinos, even though Whitman has spent heavily on Spanish language media.

"Buying TV ads, billboards, and pushing commercials is not enough to capture the Latino vote," says Randy Ertll, executive director of El Centro de Accion Social in Pasadena. "Republicans need to devise a true, grass-roots campaign that will go directly to the Latino electorate."

"Latinos are still mad at the Republican party for its anti-illegal immigrant stance of Prop. 187 which denied undocumented immigrants social services and education," says Mr. Dash.

A final reason for California's liberal leanings is the state's reputation for being at the cutting edge of social trends. It's America's end-of-the-rainbow state, which tends to attract spiritual seekers and experimentation, he says

"The kind of people who tend to settle here are more progressive, and more environmental," says Dash. So far the tea party, which has caused a lot of political upheaval in other states, has not been strong here, he says.

But the perception that the tea party has no effect in California is off base, says Eric Garris, a Republican activist and founder of Antiwar.com. He says he was at a tea party rally with more than 1,000 people a few weeks ago, but it received no press coverage. "Many California tea party activists are also active against the war in Afghanistan, which doesn't fit the media's narrative for the tea party," he says.

[Editor's note: The original version used language that overstated Barbara Boxer's lead in California.]

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