Saturday morning there was a townhall put on by a local Republican group. There were probably around 125 people in attendance. I’m guessing but they were likely active Republicans who’d volunteered on campaigns before. They had Shawn Steel, RNC National Committeeman, Sen. Robert Huff, Republican Senate Leader, and RPLAC chairman Mark Basil Vafiades, among others give an update about the party. Then they had candidates address the audience. The two gubernatorial candidates spoke.
Tim Donnelly spoke first. He was engaging and funny, mentioning the controversial web video with Maria Conchita Alonso. It's not hard to see what people like about Donnelly. I know some people think Donnelly will be a disaster for the GOP, as people will run from a party that runs a "wacko fringe" candidate. I disagree. Contrary to what "people in the know" think, Donnelly doesn't have a negative image with California populace.
People counter that after Jerry Brown runs a lot of negative advertising people will run screaming from the GOP. I don't see Jerry Brown doing a lot of negative advertising. If the election is as one-sided as it appears, he's far more likely to take the high road like Dianne Feinstein did in 2012. She never mentioned her opponent, let alone went negative on her. Brown has spent the last three years selling himself as a common sense moderate Democrat who Republicans can be proud to have as governor. He won't mess up that image if he doesn't need to do it to help him win the election.
And no, I don't see outside groups doing that either. In 2012, there was a lot of outside money spent in California one congressional and legislative races, but none on the Presidential or Senate races. I'm sure it's possible that local spending will attempt to tie congressional candidates to "crazy Tim Donnelly," but doing that would be a two step process. People knew the negatives for Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman. You'd have to educate them on Donnelly's negatives, hope they take, and then attach him to the candidate. That sounds like a lot of work.
The only way they'd run negative ads on Donnelly is if he's an actual threat and polling in the mid to high 40's. If they do that and knock him down to 39%, Donnelly's in the same place he is now. Even if Donnelly does badly, I don't think it'll hurt the Republican party.
Neel Kashkari spoke next and he fell flat. He opened up by telling people that he ran a government program that didn't cost the taxpayer a dime and actually made the government a $13 billion profit. (He didn't mention this was TARP, as that names doesn't go over well). You'd think this'd be music to the crowd's ears. Republicans wouldn't object to a lot of what government does if it didn't cost us anything. He got crickets. Kashkari was careful, emphasizing jobs and education and not mentioning his support for gay marriage or abortion. And he was uninspiring.
Frankly, I don't see what Kashkari brings to the election that'll help him make top two. He's unknown by most Californians. He doesn't have any grassroots support or organization. Running as a moderate won't help that because moderates aren't as enthusiastic as conservatives or liberals. He likely hasn't raised much money and he won't be putting much of his own money in. So I don't know how he'll raise his profile. He only has strong appeal to Indian-Americans. While that may help him raise some money, they aren't a big voting block. So how will he get more votes than Donnelly in the primary?
If it's a choice between Kashkari and Donnelly, I think Donnelly would be more helpful to the Republican party. While it's possible that Donnelly will turn off some moderates from the party, Kashkari isn't likely to win them. Maybe they'll stay home no matter who runs. Donnelly has incredibly strong appeal to the Tea Party and some conservatives. He's building a tremendous grassroots organization, loaded with conservative activists. That organization will get people to the polls. Some of these people are high turnout voters, but others are so disillusioned with the Republican party they might stay home if Kashkari were the nominee.
Keep in mind that swing districts don't consist entirely of swing voters. There are a lot of conservative voters in those districts. They're balanced out by liberal voters. Candidates like Gary Miller have districts loaded with conservatives. Donnelly is from San Bernardino County and I'm sure he can use all the Donnelly enthusiasm there'll be in Rancho Cucamonga and Upland.