Shane, my point is that California voted Dem this year because it had little other choice. I still maintain that it is a Purple state because that is where it would fall on a Red-to-Blue spectrum.
California isn't purple, it's Blue. I'm a Democrat and I voted for the Repub. candidates for governor and for insurance commissioner because I thought they would do the best job. I'd caution you not to read too much into the election, especially as any kind of an endorsement of the Republican party. As you said earlier the California Republican Party is still way too conservative for most Californians, including me. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Why is it that California thought Arnold would do the best job as Governor? He certainly wouldn’t have won the election by such a large margin if he had campaigned on star power alone. The reason is that he is reasonably in line with what most Californians are looking for, politically. This is the same reason Dianne Feinstein remains such a popular figure here. Both are political moderates that lean left socially and lean right economically.
California tends to vote Democrat because voters are left little other option. The California Republican Party is too conservative for voters. Economically, the state is moderate to right. Socially, the state is moderate to left. For the record, both of these generalizations are on the whole of the state.
My point is that because the California Republican Party keeps putting up such conservative candidates, Californians won't vote for them. The Democrats are not highly favored in this state, either. Economically, few are really in line with the sentiments of voters. However, outside of political blogs, academic settings, and financial institutions, who considers fiscal matters sexy? People can get riled up over social issues.
If the California Republican Party downplayed the social issues or moved a little left on them, it could gain a lot of power in statewide races. Local districts are very gerrymandered and it would take a whole new strategy for Republicans to win a majority in the California Congressional Delegation, the Assembly, or the state Senate. But that doesn’t mean California is Blue.
This election (and others before it) show that the median voter theorem is heavily at work in California. For statewide office, voters prefer a moderate candidate that is neither socially conservative nor economically liberal. This is why moderate Arnold handily beat tax-hiker Angelides. This is why moderate Democrat DiFi beats just about everybody. This is why pro-choice Pete Wilson won so often.
California’s median voter isn’t to be found in the San Francisco Bay Area or in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area any more than it is to be found in the Fresno/Clovis area. He (or she) is a strong moderate looking a little like Ahnold and DiFi.