It’s not just that Abel Maldonado’s gubernatorial campaign has started with mistakes. Or that it’s started by taking on an issue – crime – that isn’t high on the agenda of Californians, or even that small subset of Californians known as California voters.

It’s that he seems to be making his campaign about someone we don’t care that much about.

That person is Gov. Jerry Brown.

Yes, Californians like Jerry Brown (though they are mixed on the kind of job he is doing). But one important thing that Brown has figured out is that Californians don’t care much about Brown or about governors or about California politicians. They prefer not to see them or hear from them all the time.

Now, maybe making Brown the issue will get Californians annoyed with Brown. But it’s more likely the anti-Brown strategy will turn people against whoever is making them think about politics. And on a political level, an anti-Brown campaign can’t win.

A winning campaign has to be about Californians – and their problems and aspirations.

For a Republican to get attention and have a chance, you need to have really new, compelling, and practical answers to two key questions. Those questions are about two things that Californians desperately want – but that no one, not Brown or anyone else, has figured out to give them.

  1. High-quality, relatively low-cost education.
  2. High-quality, relatively low-cost housing.

The California political figure who figures those two things out and can explain his or her plan coherently will be unstoppable.

Maldonado should go dark and spend every waking moment talking to people, seeking out research and figuring out the best possible answers to those problems. Only when he’s got those answers should he return to the public sphere, and start making the case for his candidacy.

And if Maldonado can’t find answers to those questions, he’s better off not running for governor.