The Republican Party, as a brand, is dead in California.
That's the eye-opening consensus of a crowd of political observers, lawmakers and strategists - Democrats and Republicans - gathered at a UC Berkeley symposium this weekend to mull over California's defiantly blue status in the wake of a conservative tide that swept the nation in November.
Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day Institute of Governmental Studies conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP's prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.
"Republicans, as a brand, are dead," Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday
"Republicans need to learn how to talk to non-traditional Republican voters," said Bettina Inclan, who worked on the communications team for losing California GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. Not just Latinos, she said, but African Americans and young people, too.
Republicans will remain dead in California until the party "decides it won't be hostile to people who aren't old and white," said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.
Just how much Meg Whitman, the defeated 2010 billionaire gubernatorial candidate, is to blame for the California GOP's sorry prospects was the subject of sharp debate.
Whitman's crushing 13-point defeat by Gov. Jerry Brown, despite spending more than $140 million of her own money, was roundly bashed by experts. But neither she, nor her team of highly paid consultants, was present to defend themselves.
The former eBay CEO's team declined to attend, becoming the first gubernatorial campaign in the history of the prestigious academic symposium to do so.
In the wake of her defeat, the outlook for Whitman's party is stark, said Kimberly Nalder, associate professor of government at Cal State Sacramento, who titled her talk "Are California Republicans Doomed?"