My wife and I received our absentee ballots this week, on Wednesday, surrounded by the fewest pieces of campaign mail and the most deftly absent television and radio advertising for statewide GOP candidates that we have ever seen in the critical first week of an election campaign. Typically absentee ballots are mailed to “permanent” early voters by mail, like us, four weeks before an election. Catching early voters with direct-mail and other advertising before they return their ballots, which could be completed and returned right now and not on election day, is important in smart election campaigns because candidates and measures can rack up votes “in the bank” before any uncertainties may emerge in the subsequent four weeks of campaigning.
We are Republicans with a good voting history, so usually our house is flooded with campaign mail during absentee ballot week. But not this week. We received two different mailings from the California GOP, one entirely dedicated to opposing Proposition 45, and another entirely dedicated to opposing Proposition 46. Neither of the mailings listed “Neel Kashkari for Governor” or any statewide or local GOP candidate. We received just one slate mailer during the whole week, that featured Republican Ashley Swearengin for Controller but did not include any advertising for Neel Kashkari for Governor or any other statewide GOP candidate. (It was a mailer produced by a company we own.) We did receive two different mailers from Dana Point City Council candidates, but that was it. We didn’t receive any dedicated mail from Kashkari or any other Republican statewide candidate, no other slate mail, and we did not hear or see one radio or television advertisement for Kashkari or any other statewide GOP candidate. The only advertising we saw during absentee voter week was the one slate mailer mentioned above, that featured advertising just from Republican Ashley Swearengin for Controller.
On the Democratic side, we did see television advertisements featuring Governor Jerry Brown, who is running for re-election, but it was about supporting Propositions 1 and 2, regarding the state water bond and establishing a state “rainy day fund” to even out financial ups and downs for the state. Brown appears so confident of victory, that he is using his political capital to promote ballot initiatives rather than a “direct ask” of voters for his re-election.
There are many conclusions to be drawn from the first week of the last four weeks of this election campaign, but top among them is that other than Swearengin, the statewide GOP candidates are placing an awesome amount of trust and confidence in regular GOP voters to simply turn out and vote for them, because they are not spending any money to communicate with these voters at all during this critical stage. I think that is a huge mistake for those GOP candidates, especially Peter Peterson running for Secretary of State, who thinks he has a chance to win, but hasn’t raised or put up the money for advertising to do so. If a candidate does not make any real effort other than an email campaign to whip up the GOP base to vote for them, and are otherwise totally silent to them, even GOP base voters will not have a compelling reason to vote for the candidate of their own party when the ballot is in their hands. My takeaway is that, win or lose, Ashley Swearengin will surely be the leading candidate in the GOP field of statewide offices this election, because she is actually making an effort and running a campaign during the absentee voting period, unlike Kashkari and the others. My view is that the votes for each of the rest of the GOP team on election night, as I see the election right now, will be dismal in comparison to Swearengin, who has also gleaned dozens of major newspaper endorsements and can be seen to be working really hard to try to win her race. In a recent interview on Fox Business News, Swearengin came out strongly for tax cuts and regulatory reform, unlike her opponent. She was stronger on these important issues than anything I have heard from Kashkari.
Jerry Brown is a very popular Governor. It is good that Kashkari stepped forward to offer an opposing view on the November ballot. But his campaign and the campaigns of all the other GOP candidates are shaping up to be depressingly weak and unworthy, almost insulting, of the precious time, support and capital of the rest of us GOP activists who want to see Republican candidates and causes victorious. Just getting on the ballot and then doing no advertising or true voter outreach other than sending out some emails, does not help us rebuild California’s Republican Party. We need some success in gaining votes and changing voter attitudes about the GOP, and to my mind Swearengin, in making the only real effort to win this election, is where Republicans should be returning the favor of their maximum support.