What do Travis Allen and John Cox have in common, besides the fact they are Republicans who have no chance of getting elected governor?

Both tripped and fell in the initiative game.

Allen had a partial excuse—his initiative to repeal the gas tax had legal problems, and he has joined up with another, similar effort.

The Cox mistake borders on unforgivable. Yes, the overwhelming majority of initiatives filed never make it to the ballot.

But that’s because they never really get started gathering signatures.

Once you have a campaign, with millions committed, you need to qualify. To spend millions and then just miss making the ballot suggests a management breakdown.

And it doesn’t speak well of someone who is running for governor.

Cox, with his neighborhood legislature, is hardly the first to come up just short. Tim Draper also narrowly missed qualifying with a measure to split California into different states.

What’s going on? Fundamentally, it’s miscalculation not poor management. But there also appear to elements of being cheap – of initiative sponsors not wanting to pay for “extra” signatures they don’t need.

But better to pay for extra signatures than spend millions and still not gather enough.

On the Cox measure, petition circulators in Southern California told me that payments for gathered signatures were slow in coming, and so some circulators refused to do the measure near the end. They describe friction between petition coordinators and the campaign. But such friction is typical.

And the bottom line is that you either get the signatures, or you don’t.