Facing California’s most prosaic election in memory, our Department of Spectator Sport Politics and Insensate Choices is girding its loins (ow!) for the fall campaign by reviewing the words of the late Senator Gene (Not Joe) McCarthy:
“Being in politics is like being a football coach,” Clean Gene famously said. “You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.”
McCarthy’s maxim seems an appropriate invocation for tonight’s one and only debate between Gov. Jerry (+16 in the Field Poll) Brown and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari, since this Made for C-SPAN event will go nose-to-nose against NBC’s broadcast of the NFL season opener between the Seahawks (5.5 point favorites) against the Packers.
High roller tip: If you bet the ratings face-off, take the game and give the points. The one-hour debate starts at 7 p.m. in the Sacramento studio of The California Channel. Other sponsors are KQED, the Los Angeles Times and Telemundo52. Tune in here for a live blog and tweet fest.
What Neel must do: Let’s be blunt: Tyrion’s chances of upsetting Gandalf in November are dependent upon at least one of three key things happening at the debate:
1-In a fiery exchange, Kashkari confounds Brown into showing his age by peppering him with a series of tough philosophical questions – “Before they invented golf balls, how did they measure hail?” “Why isn’t ‘phonetic’ spelled the way it sounds?” “What’s another word for ‘thesaurus?’” – that send the Jesuit incumbent screaming into the night before announcing his abdication the next morning.
2-In response to a question about the California Water Project from moderator John Myers, Brown takes a sip from his glass, suddenly complains of “pain in my jaw, radiating down my left arm,” then falls to the floor and turns blue. Alternatively, he copiously drools.
3-The event is interrupted by the breaking news that eMeg Whitman has purchased California, in a deal underwritten by Goldman Sachs, and is installing Neel in Sacramento as “Pro Consul and COO.”
Of course, it’s also true that the impish Kashkari can win by losing – running a thoughtful, respectable and dignified race and beating the spread at the Calbuzz Casino (see below). In a year when California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte has begun to pull his party out of the La Brea tar pits, and helped put forth some of its most appealing candidates in recent years – Ashley Swearingen and Pete Peterson come to mind – Kashkari can make his bones politically.
As a personal matter, a stronger-than-expected race instantly will establish him as a Player in Republican politics, and leave him well positioned for another run for governor or for the Senate, depending on circumstances. More importantly, Kashkari could provide a major boost for Brulte’s long game effort to rebrand the party in California and make it relevant again.
We don’t agree with everything Tyrion says – as certified geezers, we strongly support railroads, and look askance at his attacks on Brown’s “Crazy Train” – but were impressed in an extensive interview with him by his biography, openness on immigration and rejection of Flashreport dogma. Now all he’s got to do is to keep running as a Calbuzz Republican.
Fun with numbers: The latest Field Poll shows Gandalf leading Tyrion 50-34 percent among likely voters. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg that the Good Ship Kashkari is about to encounter. Brown not only is winning 83% of Democrats and 42% of independents, he’s got 11% of Republicans. Neel, on the other hand, pulls 77% of Republicans, but just 24% of independents and a puny 6% of Democrats.
Worse for Kash & Karry, he beats Brown among conservatives 71-16%, but loses liberals 91-1% and gets stomped among all-important middle-of-the-road voters 55-23%. Brown is leading among men (50-33%) and women (50-35%) and among whites (50-39%), Latinos (49-28%), Asians (40-19%) and blacks (82-9%).
While nearly everyone has an opinion about Gandalf, and their views are 56% favorable to 35% unfavorable, fewer than 6 in 10 likely voters even have an opinion about Tyrion and it’s just 35% favorable and 24% unfavorable. After tonight’s debate, only a few more voters may know who Kashkari is; more important for him, his favorable rating might improve if he acquits himself nicely.
(Mandatory belaboring: These numbers brought to you by our secret sources since a prominent subscriber to the Field Poll has blackballed Calbuzz from being able to subscribe to the poll directly).
We’ll be updating the line regularly between now and November, depending on events in the campaign, and in mid-October we’ll announce details of the Calbuzz Election Pool, entry in which will make you eligible for Big Prizes.
BTW P.S. The biggest political event of tonight will not be the gubernatorial debate, but rather the joint appearances in San Francisco of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris before about 50 $1,000-to-$10,000 donors to the California Democratic Party .
Get ready for Election 2018!