Ever wonder where the phrase "canary in the coal mine" came from ? Coal miners used to take canaries underground with them... so that if toxic gases like carbon monoxide got too strong, the canaries would die first. That would give the miners the chance to get out safely before suffering th esame fate. Well. California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte says his state party is the "canary in the coal mine" for the national GOP. He spoke late Friday with Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler.