The Republican primary math is interesting:

Neel Kashkari 18.70%
Tim Donnelly 14.90%
Andrew Blount 2.30%
Glenn Champ 1.90%


gov pie chart salaverryAs a pie chart, the Republican primary math is even more intriguing. Not to make too much out of the numbers, it’s still an eye opener that the combined Republican gubernatorial vote was significantly above overall GOP registration of 28.40%.

Is that significant?

Had Donnelly won, it would not have been. Donnelly was headed towards a November disaster. On the other hand, Neel Kashkari— who seemed to this commentator a weak candidate—is far stronger than anticipated. Were Kashkari to poll 37.80% in November, that would be a huge achievement with many consequences.

Can Kashkari pull this off? Yes he can.

First, the significant win against Donnelly cements the narrative that the Tea Party is past its glory days in California. Notwithstanding the energy of the Tea Party caucus at the last CRP conventions, Donnelly has lost big.

Donnelly didn’t raise serious money; his base is either broke or tightwads and not a single big donor stepped forward. Donnelly’s grassroots couldn’t pull off a ground game that made a difference. And of course, Donnelly let Kashkari’s attacks rattle him and his team responded with the Sharia comments that ended his candidacy. Donnelly will term out of the assembly and lose any future race for congress. His star dims. Best case, a country supervisor position or some lesser elective position.

Kashkari’s star in the meantime rises; he became a very good candidate in his fast and furious campaign. Listening to him on The John Batchelor Show—a thinking conservative’s talk radio program out of New York City where he was fed softballs and set up to make his strongest case— Kashkari was articulate, focused and a fighter against Brown, while remaining disciplined with regard to Donnelly. Impressive.

With money and a good team, Kashkari may turn out to be much better than many expected. Those with far more information put their money on Kashkari. I’ve written about Charles Munger, Jr. before. He’s a smart man with far greater political bandwidth than those of us making educated guesses from the sidelines. Charles chose a winner. Kudos.

Others expended political capital and also won. Congressman Issa came out strongly for Kashkari and against Donnelly. That broke a dam of silence among the national political heavies. Governor Romney recorded a robocall message. The Bushes and Rove were probably quite active behind the scenes. As a result, a good candidate won convincingly and a potentially disastrous candidate lost.

Given the new political climate after the Kashkari win, California Republicans have reason to be cautiously optimistic. At a minimum, Kashkari looks to be able to avoid the likely disaster that Donnelly would have caused. If he stays strong and grows as a candidate, Kashkari should be able to pull off at least a respectable 28.40% Republican registration win. This will help the down ticket races greatly. Pete Peterson may well be our next SOS. Elan Carr may pull off an upset in Waxman’s district. And here in the Bay Area, Catharine Baker may win her assembly seat.

Kashkari will not be so toxic to Tea Party conservatives that they will sit out the election in November. He isn’t Abel Maldonado, a perceived traitor to the base. And Kashkari is a fresh new face, young enough to excite new voters and independents. They will more than make up whatever hard right conservatives peel off to give him at least a 28.40% registration win.

But Kashkari has the potential to do better than GOP registration. As he argues—with passion and conviction— there are huge holes in Jerry Brown’s “California Comeback.” Maybe Kashkari and his advisors are reading Joel Kotkin and others about appealing to the working class Reagan Democrats who are getting hosed. Too hardworking (and too proud) to qualify for government largesse that goes to the poor, blue collar voters are emphatically not doing well in California. Kashkari champions and channels them effectively with his jobs theme.

And his education theme may also prove a winner. The middle class of California—those who don’t have the option of an affluent community with excellent public schools—know only too well the state of our K-12, our community colleges and how difficult and expensive it is to get their kids into the state colleges with the UCs beyond the academic and financial reach of those with an educational bad start.

Kashkari’s base vote is 28.40%– Republican registration state-wide. But he has turned out to be a higher quality candidate than expected who might get closer to the aggregate 37.80% of the primary vote against Brown.

If he gets to north of 35% then in the final weeks of the race there is a fighting chance. Politics if full of surprises. Given a strong candidate, money, talented staff and a good year for Republicans nationally, upsets can happen.