Disinteresting the Base: How Whitman Is Going to Beat Brown in November
I watched a lot of local news last night with the Mehserle decision coming down. And thanks to that I saw this ad a lot:
It’s a pretty intense hit-job on the once and future Governor, but I’ll say this: it’s really, really well-produced. Where most political ads slide across and away from my consciousness, this one caught and held my attention.
I don’t think the audience for this ad is the independent vote that could decide the race (though I’m sure Meg’s camp would be happy to see those folks won over), the real audience is the hip, urbane, young Democratic base in the media-savvy enclaves. The message of the ad is not “Vote for Meg” it’s simply, “Hey young Dems, just don’t bother voting.”
And I think that strategy could actually work. Brown was unopposed in the Democratic primary. An unopposed Democrat in California! Did you have your eye on a rising party star? (Newsom? Villaraigosa?) Too bad. You got Brown on the ballot and Brown only.
I would argue, contrary to the standard political wisdom, that not being contested in the primary will hurt Brown in the long run. No one had a chance to get excited about Brown – and excitement, we saw in the 2008 Presidential, is crucial to energizing the young Democratic base. (And also to ginning up one of those small donation money machines like Obama had.)
And so despite the independent voters the pundits will talk about everyone chasing, Meg (who doesn’t need anybody’s money except Meg’s) just has to do one crucial thing between now and November: Disinterest the Democratic base.
And with media buys like this, I’d say she’s off to a good start.
(Caveat: The X factor in November will be legalization. There are an awful lot of those same young Democrats who, smokers or not, will want to cast their vote on such potentially historic legislation. And maybe, just maybe, pot will save Jerry Brown in the end.)