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EAR TICKLER: Capitol Public Radio's Ben Adler hosts Mike Madrid and Paul Mitchell for the final Keys to the House podcast takes a look back at House Republicans lost seven seats in California.
SPORTS PAGE: Well, the Aggies couldn't pull it out yesterday against Eastern Washington, but it was a helluva game. In the last minute-and-a-half, the Aggies took the lead on a two-point conversion. Then, the Eagles ran the field to score with 26 seconds left. It wasn't enough time for the Aggies to make it back down the field.
Unlike 2000 against Bloomsburg in the then-Division II national semi-final at the old Toomey field in Davis where the Aggies collapsed after a 20+ halftime lead allowing Bloomsburg to score 29 points in the 4th quarter, there wasn't the same feeling of giving away the game. Eastern Washington is simply a slightly better team, particularly at home in 32-degree weather.
Today, San Francisco hosts Denver (1:05/CBS) (Go Broncos), and the Steelers are at the Raiders (1:25/FOX). Both Oakland and San Francisco at 2-10 are fighting hard for draft picks. I saw a fact yesterday that the Niners and Raiders have never both had the as awful of a record this late in the season in the Super Bowl era. The Chargers host the Bengals (1:05/CBS) and the 11-1 Rams are in Chicago in the 5:40 game on NBC.
Anyway, Sunday morning is for politics:
CAGOP: In a letter sent Friday to the California Republican Party board of directors, five of the party's past political directors made a wake-up call for the CRP's direction. The five are Mike Madrid, Debbie McCall, Jimmy Camp, Jarryd Gonzales and Matt Robbins. The LAT's Phil Willon writes:
“This election proved that choosing Nationalism over Conservatism is a losing proposition. President Trump’s nationalist rhetoric has alienated far more than the diverse electorate that turned out to oppose him on election night — Republicans abandoned Republicans in historic numbers as well,” the letter said. “It is our hope that you will publicly renounce the nationalism metastasizing in the party, advance the cause of conservatism and return the greatness to our Grand Old Party.”
No comment from the party, which is not unexpected. Outgoing party chair Jim Brulte has been saying the same thing, although it's not being echoed by the major candidates to replace him. As of right now to my knowledge, the active candidates are three white guys, none of whom argue that the messaging is off and that they are being out-organized by Democrats or, more extreme with no evidence, that there is voter fraud.
For NBC News, Beth Fouhy looks at the plight of the party.
Brulte argues that there is no voter fraud and that he and others had been educating the national party and California GOP candidates on the new election rules that took place this year. Yes, we can dislike the college football overtime rules but they are what they are and have to be prepared. Unfortunately, while Democrats were developing a ground game for two years after their 2016 heartbreak, Republicans--driven by consultants who work on commission--were more focused on raising SuperPAC money for ad wars rather than the ballots themselves.
The message from those "independent" ad wars (on both sides) were also largely driven by Washington. Attacking Josh Harder (D) as a San Francisco liberal driving around in a car mock-up with Nancy Pelosi who wants to protect the Affordable Care Act is not going to win over the swing independents, particularly women, that would decide the fate of now former Congressman Jeff Denham (R) in CA10. Guess what? in Stanislaus County, lots of people trek to the Bay Area for work and to shop. Better commercials would be about working on making the commute easier for those going over the Altamont Pass, although infrastructure spending was not something in the mix, particularly with the campaign to repeal the gas tax on the same ballot.
I was writing about this throughout the cycle, but the ads never changed and Denham no longer has a seat in the House. It's not like I expect this missive to drive strategy of either part, but the people I've talked to after the election say "We know."
Worse for the GOP is that the seat is likely not in play again until 2022 and, even then, they need a helping hand from California's independent redistricting. Also, perhaps counter-intuitive but proven in history, a win of the White House by Democrats in 2020 would be best for House Republicans in California, making it a first midterm for the party out of control of 1600 Pennsylvania.
The other Orange County districts (CA39, CA45, CA48). Like all the competitive seats, the voter registration trends are unfavorable for Republicans. However, these seats also have a big enough share of independent voters to be susceptible to a red wave. How Democrats play their cards with the gavel in Pelosi's hand, the direction of the economy and employment and, perhaps most importantly, what happens with the Hurricane Mueller may determine the fate of these three seats in 2020. Of course, nobody can speak on them in 2022 because they districts will have been redrawn.
The OCR's Jordan Graham looks at the GOP's prospects in Orange County.
The leadership of Pelosi and other leadership team members are key and that's why the top three were re-elected. Beyond being an outstanding fundraiser, Pelosi is a great tactician. The inside talk of her re-election of as the party's leader was basically "She won't Ryan/McCarthy us." Lots of candidates who won in November in these seats pointed to 95-99% voting records aligned with President Trump. Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have to be very careful about what's brought to the floor, particularly items that are destined for defeat in the Senate.
That won't be easy. The new group of outsiders ran with promises of legislation to satisfy their voters. And, newly elected Alexandra Cortez-Ocasia (D-NY) is already nipping at the heels of leadership with calls for liberal legislation that will go nowhere in Mitch McConnell's Senate. Somewhat oddly, Cortez-Ocasia is on the attack against a new member orientation where lobbyists gave presentations. The only thing was that the event at Harvard was independent of Congress and attendance was voluntary. But, her supporters are happily amplifying her claims.
Democrats, host your own rainbow of interests incoming training and raise the money that the Kennedy was, or look foolish.
That said, I'm not sure better traditional organizing may not have helped in this wave in these seats. Republican voters turned out--there just weren't enough of them. The President is incredibly unpopular in California--personally and politically--among independent voters. That's a huge voting bloc. Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) put these tough votes on the floor and instructed these members to vote for them. The opposition to the tax bill because of the cap on the State and Local Tax Deduction in California was well known, particular owners of expensive houses in, you guessed, Orange County. It was like a repeal of Prop. 13 in 2018--30 years after California's famous tax revolt.
The popularity of the Affordable Care Act, which has worked better in California than other states, is well documented among independent women, particularly on the issue of coverage for pre-existing conditions. You can't dance around that by saying you voted against it before voting for it or vice-versa. "On roll-call vote 123..." never works.
California Democrats have voter numbers in their favor, the voting system changes have favored them, and they had far more money to drive ground turnout. As the former political Republicans opine, the party needs to staunch the bleed of party registration and invest more in voter targeting using information technology the way Democrats did to "harvest ballots" of friendly independents.
It's not something that people usually write about but this "ballot chasing/turnout/harvesting" ground game inherently favors Democrats. While perhaps uncouth to say, the California GOP is older and whiter. That's nothing new--think of the old characterization of the "country club party." The significant increase in voter participation--if it repeats--means a bigger ground game. There is an important distinction from NC-9. The accusations are that ballots were harvested there. In California, it's too many ballots some allege. These were all legal ballots; it is just a question whether they collected in bulk and whether that continue to be legal.
Irony? The one Republican to support "third party" VBM collection? Senator John Moorlach, who represents now-defeated Janet Nguyen's neighboring district. Ouch.
Two things have gotten a lot less effective in recent election cycles--television/radio ads and phone banks. Yes, I know John and Ken are popular, but you're spending money singing to the choir there.
I don't need to tell you that we have hundreds of channels on multiple platforms to be entertained. I watched Netflix's great "Homecoming" yesterday--for hours. There are no ads. Take a look at these nominations of the top series categories for the 2019 Golden Globe awards:
Best Television Series, Drama
Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Nine of these 15 are shown without commercials. Of the 15, only one--"The Good Place" on NBC is on a channel that is normally on the agenda of political ad-buyers.
This year's Emmy awards?
Sure, our parents and grandparents are still watching the late-night shows and local news and, of course, I say that as a 45-year-old. Younger voters, who lean more to the left but also eschew party in greater numbers, more often are consuming non-traditional platforms and tape-delay to fast-forward through commercials. This also includes older ethnic voters who are tuning in to foreign language media in greater numbers. I counted more than a dozen foreign-language channels in Orange County alone.
When I talked to Paul Mitchell about how now former state senator Janet Nguyen was winning in the early days of counting while her fellow Republicans were falling around her, he attributed it to a wave of high early Vietnamese turnout.
Guess what, those were "early" voters who are more likely to be older and more party loyal. We know how that count played out, and there's no way there is going to be found a 3,089-vote error (out of 236,248 counted for the race) in the county. Simply put, Democratic and younger voters (including more persuadable young Vietnamese and Korean voters) waited to the last minute to vote and, indeed, likely needed to be hand holded to get their ballot in.
Meanwhile, phone banks are worth about as much as JC Penney stock.
Why is this a particular problem for the GOP? Its most dedicated activists are often older, richer, and whiter. That's no secret. People will write checks (although certainly not as big this year than in previous cycles), while show up at a local county party or candidate office. Those that show up will "work the phones," but often aren't able or willing to knock on doors. They also are not often staying through the 8pm hour to catch voters.
This has often been true for both parties. I served as chair of the Yolo County Democratic Party for five years and have run these local offices. Because I write, I no longer participate in campaign or candidate activities, but even in the late 1990s, we had more volunteers who wanted to make calls than we had space or for whom we had phones.
Both parties are using distributed phone banks, where volunteers are given access to voter lists either online or in person and told to go home or to a park to make calls. Democrats have done a better job because their activists are often more familiar with technology to get that online list and used to a cell phone, work-from-home environment.
But even then, younger voters, with fastest growing groups being non-white, aren't answering phone calls that are not familiar. They also might not check the voice mail message if left, particularly with this issue of illegal masking of calls that appear local by international telemarking companies.
So, ads are less effective as are phone calls. We're back to evening and weekend door knocking. And, that takes volunteers or paid staff to tackle. But, it's a ground game that many traditional consultants in the political industry (many of whom are my friends) are not willing to argue. They get commissions on media and mail. Guess what? Most of that media isn't reaching voters and mail goes from the mailbox to the recycle bin in two seconds flat.
All parties and candidates have to look at politics as a human resources logistics game. I heard the reports of the masses showing up at the campaign officers of these congressional challengers on the Democrats side. They needed to be managed correctly, given a t-shirt, bottled water, and a sophisticatedly developed walk list. Gone are the days of knocking on all doors or just those of your party. Data is paramount, and that's not just a plug for PDI or other data service.
The fortunate thing for Democrats this year was that there were plenty of bodies to complete that role and knowledge of this human resource management requirement. My sister lives in Simi Valley in CA25, where Katie Hill (D) beat Steve Knight (R). She told me how many times Hill volunteers were in her neighborhood, which is in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. I heard stories like that everywhere in these competitive races.
The voting laws, whether you are a fan or not, will not be changing in California anytime soon. They are very popular with voters who are not employed as pundits or the biggest activists.
So, you've got to play by the rules, which require vast human resources. That's why the opinion of the five former GOP political directors is spot on. The party is losing market share to new voters, who are younger, more independent, and more likely to be not white. It is selling Saabs, not Priuses, or more likely, ride-shares. It is opening up mass-market bookstores. While there may be a loyal following initially, it is simply not a "growth industry."
This doesn't have to be permanent, but for now message matters. And, you can't simply sell it as "New Coke." You need to replace the artificial corn syrup with real sugar. What are the issues that matter most to 17-year-olds right now? Yes, your activists that showed up to the Los Angeles County Republican Party's election meeting yesterday won't be happy, but they're not going anywhere. Think 2030, not 2016--that's what smart business leaders do.
Send copies of Jim Collins's "How The Mighty Fall And Why Some Companies Never Give In" to your 58 county chairs. That's $620.60 on the big bad retailer. The party spent $296,653.86 on fundraising events at Fairmont's The Grand Del Mar Resort. Pick a Hilton until things get better. It gave at least $300,000 to the Yes on 6 committee, which was later largely abandoned as a strategy. Cut back a little and focus on the rebuild of party strategy.
It won't be easy as the loudest voices don't want to talk about realignment. Think 2030. Listen to your former political directors. They are legit Republicans who CRP folks are far more likely to listen to than to listen to me.
I want two viable parties. It's in the best interest of our great state.
CADEM: With its own disarray, it looks like vice-chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker, a former labor activist now with her own firm, will serve the functions of chair until a new chair is elected at the convention in April. Meanwhile, the January Assembly district caucuses, where convention delegates are elected, will be a brutal fight between "institutional" and "progressives," the latter of which want more radical changes to the party structure to provide more power to the grassroots. This was a fight that was brewing, but more caffeine has been added given the resignation of the chair.
Essentially, the "Berniecrats" successes in the 2017 caucuses that led to a very close 2018 and disputed race have been given new fuel with the chair's resignation. It puts elected state Assemblymembers, who are key actors in the caucuses in a pickle as activists return to say "we told you so."
TOP-TWO: The LAT's John Myers writes that, when faced with two Democrats on the ballot, millions of voters left their ballot blank on that office:
"Most glaring is a comparison between the total number of votes in the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Only 2% of California ballots didn’t have a selection in the governor’s race won by Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, while 18% — nine times as many — skipped voting for or against Lt. Gov.-elect Eleni Kounalakis. In all, more than 2 million voters declined to pick the person who replaces the governor in the event of death, resignation or when he travels outside California."
We have birthdays below the jump!
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Marna Davis, Adam Gottlieb, Eric Spencer, and Michael Wilson!
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