By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Republican polemicists once used the phrase “San Francisco Democrat” to demonize Democratic rivals – an allusion to the city’s singular ideological proclivities.

This year, however, the whole state is becoming Republicans’ dark symbol of where the country is headed should Barack Obama return to the White House.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney started what one might call the Californization of the campaign with a joke in Iowa, to wit:

“Entrepreneurs and business people around the world and here at home think that at some point America is going to become like Greece or like Spain or Italy. Or like California – just kidding about that one, in some ways.”

Gov. Jerry Brown – who’s been the butt of many jokes himself – didn’t laugh at Romney’s quip. His spokesman, Gil Duran, snapped: “Romney knows just as little about the Golden State as he does about the rest of the world.”

But Romney’s jab was just the beginning. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential candidate, quickly joined in the fun.

“Obama’s vision for America will make the rest of the country look like California, minus the beautiful scenery and warm weather,” Palin said, listing the state’s bullet train project, anti-global warming regulations, stubbornly high unemployment, taxes and “endless budget shortfalls.”

Conservative commentator Peggy Noonan offered a more nuanced version of the California-as-hell theme:

“But he (Romney) and his supporters should drop the argument that if we don’t change our ways we’ll wind up like Europe. … What Americans are worried about, take as a warning sign, and are heavily invested in is California. …”

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