Earlier we looked at a shocking poll result in New York, where the Republican challenger has inched ahead of the incumbent Democratic governor. But is that really happening or is it just a glitch in the matrix? It’s still a bit early to say, but if the unexpected is happening in New York, then something perhaps even more shocking may be in the works on the opposite end of the country. In the City of Los Angeles, Republican businessman Rick Caruso has been slugging it out with Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass to be the next mayor of the City of Angels. Up until now, his privately funded effort didn’t appear to stand much of a chance of overcoming Bass’ built-in advantage with the city’s famously liberal voters. But this week, some eleventh-hour polling indicates that Caruso has not only closed the gap but has opened up a small lead. A Republican governor of Los Angeles in the 21st century? There are some very stunned liberals walking around Hollywood at the moment. (Politico)
Caruso has erased a double-digit deficit with Bass in the final weeks of the most expensive mayor’s contest in city history. The billionaire shopping mall developer, who has spent tens of millions from his personal fortune in his first run for political office, is in a tight race with the veteran politician, according to at least one recent poll and political analysts.
The six-term congresswoman’s campaign is feeling the heat, pleading for money and volunteers to knock on doors in a late Thursday email blast. “We need that now more than ever,” it said.
The most likely culprit in the turnaround is money. Lots of it. Caruso has blanketed the airwaves in one of the most expensive media markets in the U.S., spending more than $81 million compared to $11 million by Bass, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Dredging up the specific numbers in the poll, Caruso has suddenly opened up a 40-37 lead over Bass, with 24% remaining undecided with only three weeks to go. That should be particularly worrisome for Bass because those who would normally be inclined to continue voting for Democrats should have made up their minds well before now. And those undecided voters may be getting ready to break in the other direction.
The money that Caruso has been flooding into this effort is not only significant in volume but it’s being allocated with brutal efficiency. As one local analyst described it, you can’t go anywhere without hearing Caruso’s pitch. His ads are blanketing the airwaves, including on Asian and Spanish-speaking outlets, with messages tailored for those communities of voters.
As with other smart Republicans around the country (at least in the places where they still exist), Caruso is talking about crime rates and the impossible cost of living in Southern California. These are common experiences for everyone in the area so it’s the sort of message that can break through. He’s also claiming to know how to tackle the homelessness crisis and stop it from continuing to make the quality of life for Angelinos deteriorate. That resonates.
While Caruso is white, he appears to be making significant inroads with the Hispanic voting community, much like Republicans in other parts of the country. Los Angeles may be particularly vulnerable to such a shift this year. Thanks to a recent scandal where Democratic members of the City Council were caught on tape slandering Black and Latino residents (leading to several of them resigning), the mask appears to have been pulled away. The Democrats have taken the Latino vote for granted for a very long time. But now some of their most senior elected officials were caught proving how they really feel about those voters behind closed doors. Would it be all that surprising if those people were reevaluation their options now?
This is far from a done deal as far as Caruso is concerned, but he seems to have struck on a message that resonates and done so at precisely the right time. If he manages to somehow pull this off, he will be the first Republican to hold the office since Richard Riordan departed in 2001. If not, he will have flushed away nearly $100 million of his own money on a fruitless political quest. But you at least have to give the man credit for putting it all on the line.