With the election less than 50 days away, those around the water cooler thought it would be a good time to remind the candidates, political consultants, campaign staff, and supporters that overconfidence has doomed many “safe” campaigns.
Calpeek is hearing lots of comments by those involved with campaigns that they are a “shoo-in” and don’t need to worry about winning their campaign. These are comments from people in all different types of races. As Calpeek readers know, the Governor Gavin Newsom campaign is so confident of a win, they did not bother to submit a statement in the official State Voter Information Guide. Although the Governor has now agreed to debate his opponent, State Senator Brian Dahle, his focus has been on the national stage. Those around the water cooler don’t disagree that Newsom is a shoo-in. It is hard to see how he could lose his re-election bid given his campaign war chest, name ID, and the fact that registered Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans.
The same may not be true for others that sound overconfident. L.A. Mayoral candidate Karen Bass has one high-level supporter who is spending his time talking about her transition to City Hall. Bass is looking strong in the polls, but, as we all know, polls are a snapshot in time and the only poll that matters is the result of ballots cast.
An experienced and thoughtful pollster can usually deliver accurate and informative results. The challenge is often predicting who will turn out to vote. With decades of data, predicting turnout is often easy. However, California has made significant changes to the election process that will impact turnout in ways which make relying on past turnout data challenging. For instance, all registered voters now get a ballot in their mailbox; they don’t need to go to a polling location to vote. California also consolidated its state and federal election with local races, which were normally held in odd numbered years, that impacts voter focus and turnout.
We are hearing similar overconfident comments from some of the statewide ballot proposition leaders. The Yes side of Proposition 28, arts education in schools, is almost sure they will prevail in November. The Yes side of Proposition 1, abortion rights, feels similarly. The campaigns are most likely correct in their assumptions, but be warned: if your opponents get a whiff of overconfidence in the air, they might decide to strike.