Donald Trump and other Republican presidential contenders addressed the California GOP’s fall convention in Anaheim, California, following Trump’s absence from the party’s second primary debate. Trump expressed confidence that he would win California, a state he lost by over 5 million votes in 2020, if it were not for a “rigged election system.” He focused on California-specific issues such as water shortages and criticized the state’s Democratic leadership, including Governor Gavin Newsom. Trump also stated that if elected, he would authorize police to shoot retail thieves as they leave the store. California is a reliably Democratic state in general elections but plays a significant role in the Republican primary as a delegate-rich contest that takes place on Super Tuesday.
The California GOP’s executive committee adopted a delegate plan this summer that could favor the Trump campaign. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, they would win all of California’s delegates, the largest haul available in any state. This differs from the system used in certain past primaries, which awarded three delegates to each congressional district, allowing candidates to target specific regions. Some allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is in second place in GOP primary polling, have sought to persuade California Republicans to reverse this decision. They argue that it is difficult for candidates to campaign effectively in a state as large as California.
DeSantis criticized Trump for skipping the second primary debate and continued to call him “missing in action.” Both DeSantis and Trump appeared separately at the convention, giving DeSantis an opportunity to court the same crowd as the former president. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who was largely sidelined at the first debate, aimed to command more attention by criticizing fellow candidate Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy, who was targeted by several rivals onstage, discussed the next phase of his campaign in an interview, stating that he would focus more on his policy plans for Day 1 of his presidency.