By David Siders
Published: Thursday, Sep. 18, 2014 – 10:28 pm

Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party chairman and current candidate for lieutenant governor, was campaigning this week when he posted a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on Twitter and told his followers he was heading “deeper into opposition-held territory.”

The smiley face that followed suggested Nehring is a happy warrior, but “opposition-held territory” for California Republicans goes far beyond the Bay Area – so much so that the party long ago deprioritized efforts to win any statewide office in November.

Instead, as Republicans gather in Los Angeles this weekend for their biannual convention, activists will rally around a more modest aspiration: To gain enough seats in competitive legislative races to undo the two-thirds supermajority Democrats hold in the Assembly, and to prevent Senate Democrats from reclaiming a supermajority that evaporated when three lawmakers were suspended in separate criminal cases this year.

The effort represents a retrenchment for the Republican Party, which has been drubbed by Democrats in recent elections and has seen its registration fall below 30 percent statewide. Republicans are focusing limited resources on a handful of legislative and congressional seats in the Central Valley and Southern California, areas where the party remains competitive.

“The Republican Party is no longer a statewide party,” said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which handicaps legislative races. “It’s a regional party.”

Yet shedding superminority status in the Legislature would be significant to Republicans, not only for policy-making reasons – with a two-thirds majority, Democrats can pass tax increases without Republican votes – but also to demonstrate to donors and potential voters that the party still is viable.

“We have a very good opportunity,” said Jeff Randle, a Republican strategist. “It’s really important to show the voters of California and the people who write checks that we can win again.”

One advantage for Republicans is that this is a midterm election with the lowest profile of gubernatorial contests at the top of the ticket. Turnout is expected to be dismal, a model that traditionally favors higher propensity voting Republicans.

“Everything is turnout,” Hoffenblum said the GOP’s prospects of breaking Democratic supermajorities in Sacramento.

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