In the June Primary Election, Congresswoman Karen Bass finished well ahead of all the other candidates with 43.11% of the vote. Developer Rick Caruso placed second with 35.99%. The strong showing gave Bass and her supporters a sense of confidence that she would prevail in November, especially since a higher turnout among Democrats is expected.
That was then. As we enter the final month of the campaign, Bass’ lead does not appear solid. Over the weekend, the L.A. Times reported on a poll by the U.C. Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, which the Times sponsored. The IGS polled registered and likely voters. The results among registered voters are not good news for the Bass campaign. Bass leads Caruso by 3% (34% – 31%) with a large number of voters undecided.
Fortunately for Bass, the results among likely voters are more favorable and more indicative of what the final election results will show. Among likely voters, Bass leads by 15% (43% – 31%). Campaign professionals focus on likely voters, but the details in the polling should concern Bass and her team.
There are still a large number of undecided voters. Caruso has the money and campaign operation that will turn out some of the “unlikely” registered voters who would support him, if they cast a ballot. Caruso’s campaign has been running effective, well produced TV ads for about 3 weeks. Two of the commercials are positive ads that show Caruso walking around the streets of L.A. shaking hands and meeting with people. Two other commercials are attack ads on Bass. One ad talks about the USC scholarship she was given by the dean who recently pled guilty in a scholarship/funding scheme. The other ad shows Bass, speaking to a large group, praising Scientology.
Bass’ campaign has not started airing TV commercials despite the fact that ballots will be mailed to voters in less than a week. A prominent labor union has placed a $1 million TV ad buy that is expected to begin within a week. The campaign is relying heavily on an independent, grassroots operation managed by Democratic clubs and labor unions. One of the Independent Expenditure campaigns supporting Bass has made a large digital ad buy.
Being the only campaign on TV has allowed Caruso to increase his name ID, set a positive tone, and own the message. He is also pumping millions into a paid, grassroots field effort that will allow him to turn out “unlikely” voters to support him.
The IGS poll may show Bass with a commanding 15% lead, but her support is only at 43%. The winner will need 50%+1. Running a quiet campaign is an unusual strategy and may be an indication of limited funds. Or overconfidence.