By John Wildermuth, political reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle
There were few surprises in the California vote, where most of the races followed the path laid out by months of pre-election polls.
In the presidential race, both Al Gore and George Bush lived up to their front-runner status, winning big in the party-only votes that determined who got the delegates to the national conventions this summer.
But California's 1996 blanket primary initiative meant that the candidates also competed in an all-comers beauty contest beauty, where party-switcher and independent votes would count in a contest for little more than bragging rights.
While John McCain had quietly conceded the Republican vote to Bush, he hoped that a good showing in the blanket primary could let him argue that he was the candidate who could win the state for the GOP in November.
It didn't happen. Bush not only took all the state's 162 delegates with about 60 percent of the vote, but also finished ahead of the Arizona senator in the beauty contest.
Once again, Republican voters gave Bush an overwhelming margin. Nearly 40 percent of McCain's votes came from independents and Democrats who crossed over to vote for the Arizona senator, compared to about a 20 percent crossover for the Texas governor.
Vice President Al Gore was California's big winner, however. With the overwhelming support of Democratic activists and officeholders, he crushed Bradley with about 80 percent of the party vote and also won the beauty contest, beating Bush by a substantial margin.
Exit polls by the Voter News Service also showed Gore besting Bush, 51 percent to 43 percent, in a head to head matchup.
Bradley's performance was a nightmare come true. Struggling all night to get 20 percent of the Democratic vote, the former New Jersey senator couldn't break out of single digits in the state's overall popular vote.
There's little argument about the importance of California in the national plans of both parties. Gore has made over 60 trips to the state in the past eight years and both Bush and McCain spent the last few days before the election barnstorming through the state.
But Democrats have won California in the past two presidential elections and both Clinton and Gore remain popular in a state that's reaping the benefits of the booming economy. If Democratic numbers stay strong in the state, Republicans may have to decide whether their chances are good enough to risk the million of dollars in television advertising it will take to win the state. To the dismay of state GOP leaders, national party officials wrote the state off early in 1992 and 1996.
Elsewhere on the California ballot, incumbent Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was virtually unopposed in her nomination bid. On the Republican side, Silicon Valley Rep. Tom Campbell was an easy winner over San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn and Riverside State Senator Ray Haynes.
This will be the second Senate race for Campbell, a moderate Republican who lost a GOP primary battle to conservative broadcaster Bruce Herschensohn in 1992. He has a tall mountain to climb, however, since Feinstein took more than half the votes in the blanket primary, while Campbell pulled in about 25 percent.
A measure to ban same-sex marriages in California also was an easy winner, despite complaints from the state's gay community that it was a divisive measure aimed at a problem that doesn't exist. While same-sex marriages already are illegal in California, backers of the initiative argued that it was needed in case any other states approved gay marriages.
The state's voters also continued their law-and-order ways by approving measures that would make it easier to try juveniles as adults and add to the special circumstances that can make a murder conviction punishable by death.