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Two Big Unknowns Face Californians in This Dismal Election

Hillary Clinton / Donald Trump | photos by Gage Skidmore
Hillary Clinton / Donald Trump | photos by Gage Skidmore

By Tony Quinn for Fox & Hounds 

This week large numbers of mail in ballots will begin arriving at county election offices, and shortly we may be able to answer the perplexing unknowns of this dismal election, who is going to vote and will Democratic dreams of an enormous landslide be realized.

Neither presidential candidate is running a real campaign right now; Hillary Clinton’s days are still spent fund raising and her speeches continue to be vacuous platitudes tumbling off her teleprompter.  Donald Trump’s new theme is that the election, which he seems now certain to lose, is being rigged against him by a hostile media.  “”The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary,” Trump tweeted on Monday.

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He’s right in that the national media is pumping up the Clinton campaign, both by refusing to seriously cover any of the Wikileaks revelations about the Clintons and taking at face value all the sordid accusations against Trump for sexual misconduct.  Contrast this to the media years long disinterest in the “erupting bimbo” accusations against Bill Clinton for his sexual behavior and any role Hillary may have played in their cover-up.

So the American voter, and especially here in California where we are just distant observers, is in a depressed and perplexing mood.  Just in the past week America all but went to war in Yemen, became engaged in a major battle to retake Mosul in Iraq, and is close to a shooting war with the Russians over Syria.  But the American media is not asking the candidates about this, instead it is fixated on how many erupting bimbos it can find at the end of Mr Trump’s little hands.

As this election draws to its close, it seems that we now face two major questions for which the answers are unknown.

The first is whether the Trump counter coattails will work. The Democratic playbook in California is to associate every Republican it is targeting with Donald Trump.  Democrats are making serious runs against three Republican Congressmen, Darrell Issa in San Diego, Steve Knight in the Antelope Valley and Jeff Denham in Modesto, and in each case they assert that these congressmen are clones of Donald Trump.  The same is true for the half dozen legislative Republicans Democrats are targeting.

The California media’s clearly biased coverage of Trump, with ten critical articles to every slightly favorable article, plays to the Democratic strategy.  But as Trump himself becomes more unhinged in his fury at the media and his enemies, there is also the possibility of a backlash.  Voters may not buy the argument that individual Republican officeholders, none of whom are defending Trump these days, are his clones.  Indeed, the strategy of House Speaker Paul Ryan for Republicans to abandon Trump and take care of themselves may prove to be the only way they survive.

The second unknown deals with Republican turnout.  In terms of registration numbers and primary turnout the Republican outlook has been simply wretched, giving rise to speculations that more than a dozen of the Republicans on the ballot this fall could lose.  GOP voters stayed home in droves in the primary rather than give Trump even a courtesy vote.  Since the primary, total Republican registration has actually declined in California, an unheard of phenomenon in an election year, as apparently thousands of Republicans changed their registration out of disgust with Trump.

If the Democratic “Trump clone” campaign is successful it will be because Republicans stay home.  Hillary Clinton will carry California in a landslide as every Democrat has since her husband in 1992; that is not an issue.  But Trump has to run close enough to Clinton in Republican held districts for the down ballot Republicans to prevail.  Trump has to run at least as well as John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 in these districts, and that means Republicans must come out to vote regardless of their feelings about Trump.

Legislative Democrats may actually have given Republicans a reason to vote by placing all the 2016 ballot measures on the fall ballot.  There are 17 measures, some which are controversial.  Perhaps GOP voters, unhappy about Trump and with no choice for the US Senate, may simple turn out because of the ballot measures and vote their down ticket candidates in the process.

We will know the level of Republican turnout shortly, as the first of several million early mail in ballots arrive at county election offices. Political Data Inc. keeps a running total of the returns, so it will be easy to compare partisan turnout this year with turnout at a comparable point in 2012.

Very soon indeed the shape of the November election will come into view, and the unknowns will no longer be unknown.

Tony Quinn is Editor of the California Target Book and a veteran Republican political consultant. Fox & Hounds Daily is a website designed to discuss and explain the confluence of politics and business in California, providing news and commentary on California politics and business.

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