Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday moved California's presidential primary from June to Feb. 5 in a bid to give the nation's most populous state a greater say in the nominating process.
"Now California is important again in presidential nominating politics... and we will get the respect that California deserves," Schwarzenegger said during a bill-signing ceremony.
California has not played a prominent role in a presidential primary since 1972, when George McGovern beat Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination. Schwarzenegger is hoping that by moving the presidential primary from June to early February, the state will again play a significant role.
More changes to come?
But California's bid for more clout has pressured other states to move up their contests, as well. That may diminish California's influence by turning the day into a national primary, with contests held in as many as 19 states.
Still, the prospect of an early primary has prompted presidential candidates from both parties to add California to their itinerary that also includes the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Republican candidates John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have appeared at Schwarzenegger's side. The events were designed to draw attention to issues the governor cares about but that might not ordinarily interest a presidential candidate, such as congestion at the port in Long Beach and gang violence in Los Angeles.
"This bill ... has already done its job," said Democratic stat Sen. Ron Calderon, a sponsor of the bill. "Before the election, it's already accomplished what we set out to do: The candidates for president are already in California. They're already talking with us. Before they would just come, raise money and leave."