Saturday, May 12, 2018

Athena Goldberg or Jeff Golden.

Which Democrat would be the stronger general election candidate?

Either one will likely win, but in different ways.

They are Democrats in a Democratic district in a Democratic year.

Athena Goldberg is a well groomed, professional, fifty-ish, energetic Democratic candidate, popular with the state Democratic party leadership and traditional Democratic allies. Her political strength comes from her charismatic personality plus her alliances with established power sources. She told me she has knocked on 1,800 doors. Her Facebook pages and videos get thousands of page views.

She is demonstrating political agility. Her primary election opponent, Jeff Golden, raised the issue of her dependence on corporate and union PAC donations, calling them "special interests."  She responded, putting up two videos in the past two days, one featuring a laundry worker and another a day care worker, with each saying money gathered by union PACs come from people like them. They say their small monthly contributions are pooled with those of other co-workers. We aren't big moneybags or some nefarious "special interest," they say. The overall message is that union PAC support is good, clean, virtuous money, and these average hard working people are proud to back Goldberg and she can be proud to get their help. Good ads.

Deft response on the PAC issue. Click.
These video ads get viewed, which is  evidence that Goldberg has a ground game capable of spreading her message now and in the general election if she wins the primary. One video that has been posted for some 48 hours has received 7,000 views. The video that had been up 8 hours as of 8:00 p.m Friday had 1,300 views, and by 6:00 a.m. Saturday had 2,000 views. Hers was a quick response with an appropriate, well-produced counter-message. This demonstrates good campaign operations.

Jessica Gomez, the Republican nominee, has a similar, very positive political brand. Gomez is a polished, forty-ish, Republican candidate, popular with state Republican party leadership and traditional Republican allies. Like Athena Goldberg, she has an appealing, charismatic personality. Both are professional in occupation and presentation, Gomez the technology businesswoman and Goldberg the mental health therapist and manager.

Democrat Athena Goldberg vs. Republican Jessica Gomez.  Apples vs. apples, two good candidates. I expect a back and forth campaign that will come down to party affiliation, turnout, and under-votes. (Undervotes are people who turn in ballots but don't choose to vote in that race.) Some Republicans may choose not to support Gomez because she is pro choice on abortion, a deal-killer for some. Gomez has given them a fig-leaf to justify their vote, her opposition to tax money being used for abortions, so I expect eventual strong Republican support. I also expect Athena Goldberg to be widely acceptable to Democratic voters. 

All the advertising on both sides will harden partisanship. There are about 8% more Democrats than Republicans in the District. That will be dispositive.

Net result: Athena Goldberg wins the general election.

Jeff Golden is a more complicated general election matchup. Golden is well known and has a longstanding progressive brand. He will not be able to match Gomez head to head in campaign spending, since he refuses PAC money and Gomez will have boatloads of it. Golden has the potential of looking like a "new kind of politician" because he will be the outsider trying to change the system, from the left, and the special interest money issue will be a centerpiece of the campaign.

Golden, on Special Interests

Golden's point on the corruption of the system has wide appeal and may broaden the Democratic base. Campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump demonstrated bipartisan frustration with "the swamp." Democrat Tonia Moro lost the 2016 election to Alan DeBoer because of the undervote in Democratic areas. Key to Democratic victory is preserving the full Democratic electorate, and Golden has the potential actually to expend it.

Golden would be the underdog challenging a corrupted system. Republican Gomez cannot become well known without using PAC money. If Golden is the Democratic nominee, he would want the election frame to be clean hands vs. PAC, or reformer vs corrupt system. Of course, Gomez and her allies will object, creating a different frame, perhaps job creating business-woman versus Ashland idealist. Or moderate Republican versus progressive extremist. 

Click: Golden on Fixing Salem

The attacks on Golden will likely energize Democrats. The swing in elections shows up in turnout, not changed minds. In Oregon's 2014 mid-term election turnout was only 69.5%. The low-hanging fruit in elections are the Democrats who would have voted for the Democrat, but did not bother, and Golden would likely create new populist and progressive votes among people open to a reform message--and there are presumably a lot of them. Those voters can more than compensate for erosion in Golden's vote count caused by him being described as "too extreme." 

I expect Golden to get near-universal Democratic support. Meanwhile, Gomez is unlikely to energize the latent conservative vote. She is not a conservative champion, she is a moderate. Indeed, she is a suspected RINO, a Republican in Name Only. She may depress the Republican vote. She won't expand it.

Net result: Jeff Golden wins. 

Either candidate has a good path to victory.  Either way the election will be messy, either as a symmetrical head to head Democratic-Republican fight or as an asymmetric campaign of a reform-Democrat versus a Republican trapped by a corrupted system.

Gomez will attempt to avoid all this, and send a message of herself as a fresh face independent moderate. She is skilled, but it will be hard to pull off, because her message will be out of her hands. Her upstate allies have the money and they have already begun commandeering her campaign and its message. They don't want a "breath of fresh air" independent Republican candidate in Gomez. They want a reliable Republican vote to block Democrats. The frame is baked into the reality of her situation. 

She could win in an even or Republican district, but not in this one. This is a Democratic district in a Democratic year, and both Golden and Goldberg are strong candidates.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gomez will not energize the latent conservative vote. She is not a conservative champion, she is a liberal democrat. Indeed, she is a RINO, a Republican in Name Only. She will depress the Republican vote. She won't expand it.