When the highest 4 candidates for California’s U.S. Senate race took the controversy stage Monday evening, the three Democrats and moderators had the identical query for Republican candidate Steve Garvey: Who will he vote for on this 12 months’s presidential election?
It was a query that Garvey, a former Los Angeles Dodger, has seemingly tried to evade on the marketing campaign path, together with through the debate.
“When the time comes, I’ll do precisely what I ought to do: I’ll take a look at the 2 opponents, I’ll decide what they did and at the moment, I’ll make my alternative,” Garvey mentioned earlier than arguing that the U.S. was safer below former President Donald Trump than President Joe Biden.
Garvey’s refusal to say outright whether or not he’d again the person who’s most definitely to steer his social gathering’s ticket once more this 12 months garnered rebukes from his Democratic opponents, Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter.
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However might that technique — avoiding aligning himself with an more and more polarizing determine in American politics — be a wise one, particularly given California’s distinctive major system?
In most major elections in California, together with a U.S. Senate race, the highest two vote-getters within the March 5 election advance to the final, no matter social gathering affiliation.
“Garvey’s clearly determined that it’s well worth the gamble to doubtlessly alienate Trump voters right here as a way to attain a broader base of voters,” mentioned Dan Schnur, a former marketing campaign guide who teaches about political messaging at UC Berkeley and USC.
“There actually aren’t sufficient Trump supporters in California to elect a senator; what’s much less clear is whether or not or not there’s sufficient of them to get a Senate candidate within the runoff. Garvey’s clearly determined there aren’t sufficient to get him by the first so he’s making an attempt to maintain his distance.”
Annette Eliot, a Trump supporter and president of the Huntington Harbour Republican Ladies Federated, was much less involved by Garvey’s avoidance of the query on the controversy stage as a result of she noticed it because the three Democrats ganging up on him.
“It’s a must to attraction to all voters,” Eliot mentioned. “You understand how Trump evokes emotion — both overwhelmingly for him or overwhelmingly no means, I can’t vote for him. … I believe (Garvey) was being pressured, and he wasn’t going to take the bait.”
She took his debate message as: “I’m operating as a Republican for Senate for all of the individuals, for the individuals who wish to vote for Trump and who don’t wish to vote for Trump.”
And so long as Garvey continues to simply hold his distance however not outright criticize Trump, mentioned Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist who served within the Schwarzenegger administration, he must be high quality with Republican major voters. These voters usually tend to rally behind Garvey the extra Democrats and the media castigate him for not taking a place, he mentioned.
“Present me one other (Republican) Senate candidate who has taken as daring a place, not promising to vote for Trump if he’s the nominee,” Stutzman mentioned. “It’s a rare credit score to him.”
Nonetheless, as Schnur factors out, holding distance from Trump — infamous for outright demanding loyalty — is dangerous.
Garvey not clearly campaigning on his help for Trump might open up the door for an additional Republican candidate to take up that mantle, nevertheless it’s unlikely that one other candidate might get sufficient public consideration, particularly this near the first, to tug that off.
“The query is whether or not Trump or his surrogates determine to raise the difficulty,” Schnur mentioned.
There are almost twice as many registered Democrats in California than Republicans (10.35 million to five.87 million) with no social gathering choice voters not far behind (4.91 million). However a latest ballot from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Research discovered help for Trump amongst California Republicans is rising as the first barrels nearer. The survey discovered 66% of probably GOP voters within the state again the previous president, up from 57% in October.
If these figures maintain out within the major, which means Trump might — below the brand new guidelines set by the California GOP over the summer time — sweep all the state’s 169 delegates, about 14% of what’s wanted for the Republican presidential nomination. (A Republican candidate wants greater than half of the statewide major vote to earn all these delegates.)
Garvey has voted for Trump in his previous two bids for the White Home. For 2024, he’s “being deliberative in who he votes for,” taking time to investigate all of the candidates, watch debates and browse articles, mentioned Matt Shupe, Garvey’s marketing campaign spokesperson.
“I don’t assume it’s vital. His message has all the time been: he’s operating for the vote of each Californian, whether or not you’re a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter,” Shupe mentioned.