Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. (Scott Olson/Getty Images; Eric Gay/AP Photo; J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

By Cathleen Decker
February 21, 2015

California has stood as a bright-blue bulwark against conservative political surges for years now, blocking at its border a series of national Republican sweeps and giving President Obama historically huge victories.

So it was with no little optimism that Republicans here gathered Saturday under the slogan “Bringing the conservative wave to California.” Their faith was rewarded by a rarity — multiple presidential hopefuls in California prospecting for actual votes, not money.

It was not exactly the first string, though former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina all delivered spirited denunciations of Obama, of liberals and occasionally of California, as they labored mightily to heighten their profiles.

They accused Obama of cowering in the face of international threats and gazing elsewhere as the nation’s middle class suffered in the backwash of the fiscal crisis he inherited. They castigated his former secretary of State and leading Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton as like-minded.

“After a decade of discontent” — a period that included part of the last Republican president’s tenure — “the American people are looking for a new direction,” Perry declared as he co-opted Obama’s 2008 slogan: “They want real hope, real change and real leadership.”

Fiorina took aim at the dominance of California’s Democrats, blaming them for the state’s economic woes and the gap between its billionaires and the poverty-stricken.

“California is the test case; it is the proof positive of what happens when liberals are in charge for too long,” she said.

The daylong event at the historic Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside drew more than 850 attendees, and was formed by two components: a drive by conservative groups to coalesce their strength, and the faint hope that with a huge and fluctuating Republican field, the 2016 race could be undecided as the campaign roars into the state’s late primary.

“California could become the kingmaker on the Republican side in June of 2016, and the people here are going to remember who came and asked for their vote instead of treating the state like an ATM,” said John Berry, statewide co-coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots group.

Although Berry acknowledged that the chance of California going Republican in a general election is “a long shot,” he said conservative groups were working to influence elections large and small. The Unite Inland Empire coalition that sponsored the conservative gathering represented two dozen groups that previously operated separately.
After a decade of discontent the American people are looking for a new direction. – former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

The Inland Empire itself is not exactly Republican-red any more; Obama won Riverside and San Bernardino counties in 2008 and 2012. But in the political gradations of the state, inland areas still remain a deeper well of potential support for Republican candidates.

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