Robert Novak

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Curt Pringle, the conservative mayor of Anaheim and onetime speaker of the California Assembly, is a pro-life Republican who endorsed pro-choice Rudy Giuliani for president last March and since then has been actively engaged in his campaign. After conversations with Giuliani, Pringle takes at face value the former New York mayor's pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. That reassurance on abortion makes it possible for Pringle and many other prominent California Republicans to pursue an ambitious political design.

Pringle and the state's other Giuliani supporters want to bring California back to relevance in selecting the Republican nominee and electing the president. They resent that the nation's most populous state is presumed to follow Iowa's and New Hampshire's lead in picking presidents. They resent California being consigned as a general election backwater, conceded to the Democrats. Giuliani is seen by Pringle resurrecting California as a significant player for both the nomination and election.

What seemed fanciful in March looks more realistic in October. Giuliani has maintained double-digit California leads over other Republicans all year. With the state primary moved up to Feb. 5 and voting beginning a month earlier, its results could negate the outcome in early small state primaries. Giuliani's popularity here with political leaders such as Pringle is based on the belief he is the only Republican who can challenge Hillary Clinton in blue states -- New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as California.

Giuliani at first seemed, as presidential candidates generally do, to regard California simply as a money jackpot. Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, Giuliani's fundraising dynamo, has a home in Del Mar, Calif., and is an active overseer of the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley. Pickens and other veterans of George W. Bush's fundraising put Giuliani in front of the California GOP money chase.

Beyond money raisers, the campaign has signed up more prominent California Republicans than other presidential candidates -- most recently former Gov. Pete Wilson. Like Giuliani, Wilson is pro-choice. Another Giuliani backer is the liberal multi-millionaire Richard Riordan, who as mayor of Los Angeles called himself a RINO -- Republican in name only. "Rudy Giuliani is too liberal for the solid, right-wing Republicans in California," Riordan said recently.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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