Republican Senatorial candidate Jessica Gomez introduced herself to voters with a soft focus video.
It was sweet political babble. In this case, the tone is the policy.
Here is the video: Click: 90 seconds.
Message one: Gomez is defining herself as nice, a conciliator, a bridge builder. Gomez understands that this is a Democratic leaning district. Previous candidates who ran negative campaigns lost the election and badly tarnished their reputations. Republicans Jim Wright and David Dotterer received withering criticism from media referees for the nasty ads produced in their name. They lost. Democrat Tonia Moro received withering criticism for her own negative ad, which blew up in her face. She, too, lost.
|A non-Trump message|
Gomez defines a tone that is opposite the Trump-Tea Party-Fox-talk radio tone of outrage and ethno-nationalism, a tone Republican voters actively chose in the 2016 election for president. She is different. This is nice-guy Republicanism.
Message two: Gomez is running as an "independent voice." She is running on the Republican ticket but in 90 seconds the word Republican never appears. She is sending a message whose credibility will be tested. Will she go to Salem and take instruction from more senior members of the Republican caucus? The median Republican voter may will want and expect her to vote Republican policies.
Democrats are already saying she will be pressured to vote like a Republican, and Trump has captured the GOP. Elect Gomez and you elect Trump in disguise. [Post revised. I have removed all references to any Republican candidate Gomez may have.]
Kevin Stine, an astute political observer and a Democratic candidate in the race, observes that she is trying to thread a thin needle. She needs to be Republican enough to get the nomination but independent enough to get crossover Democratic votes. It is going to be hard to do.
Message three: Gomez has an insurmountable lead, so GOP rivals should back off. Gomez's ad was expensive and highly produced. It demonstrates she has money and support and that her campaign is up and running and she can overwhelm any last minute "regular Republican" opposition. [Post revised. References to an opponent deleted.]
Gomez is understood in local political circles to have been a Democrat until recently, to have voted for Hillary Clinton, to be appalled by Trump's behavior toward women and language against Hispanics. Trump is president and leader of her political party, and he triumphed by locating and exacerbating resentment of the rising power of women, of Hispanics, of educated elites, and of new industries at the expense of traditional ones--people like Jessica Gomez! Yet she is running as a Republican and Republicans are staying loyal to Trump and his messages and policies. She is vulnerable here to a rival but her video staked her claim: I've got this.
Jessica Gomez created a messaging problem for Democrats. A Democrat would likely win easily in an election with a Trump-style Republican. Gomez's person and tone position herself in the center of the Democratic coalition, an educated, pro-community, pro-diversity, Latina, voicing a Democratic message.
But it also creates a messaging problem for Gomez. She will have an authenticity problem that will be questioned both in the primary and general election. The question will haunt her: what in the world is she doing in the party of Donald Trump? Who is she really?