McCain Says He Can Compete in California

(CBS)

From CBS News' Andante Higgins:

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Texas and Ohio may be the states in the spotlight today, but John McCain is looking forward to the general election and the country's biggest prize: California.

"It's the biggest state in America," McCain said. "I think as a western senator I understand their issues. I think the environmental issues are very important in California. I think I can appeal to the Hispanic voter, I think I can appeal to the Asian voter, I think I can appeal to the independent voter, which is a larger and larger percentage of registered voters."

It will be a tough road for the Republican senator. California has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George Bush in 1988, who was the vice president of a former governor of the state, Ronald Reagan. "I don't think as a candidate that I want to say, 'we're not going to compete in the largest state in America, which is next door to my home state of Arizona,'" McCain said. "I think we ought to go to as many states as possible and as many areas as possible around the country, including competing in California."

McCain jokes on the trail everyday about how California stole all of Arizona's water. He says that issue and others they have in common will help him there. "I understand western issues, whether they be public land and water, agriculture etc.," he said. "I'm a free trader, California is vitally involved in the issue of free trade. I understand many of their transportation issues, as we have faced similar."

Adviser Steve Schmidt, who lives in California and has campaigned with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., says California is a complex state, but McCain has what it takes to compete. "It's closer to being a purple state then blue state," Schmidt said. "John McCain can compete in California, period,"

Cost could make it complicated, however; ads are more expensive in California, and the size of the state raises the travel budget. None of that has dissuaded McCain so far.

"I understand the drawbacks of that, the cost of media, all of those aspects of it," he said. "I just want to compete in California."