The Conversation

McClintock Race Could Give Democrats New Playbook to Take Out Conservatives

In 2012, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) won re-election by 22 percent. So why is he sending fundraising appeals warning of a “total liberal takeover”?

Because in California, it’s happened before.

In 2002, conservative businessman Bill Simon bested former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan a fierce primary contest that would culminate with a general election match-up with incumbent Governor Gray Davis. At one point, the moderate Riordan led the GOP-field by more than 30 points. 

What happened?

In what was characterized as “an unprecedented interference in another party’s primary”, Davis spent $10 million in attack ads targeting the more formidable Riordan.

Davis ended up beating Simon – not the more formidable Riordan -- by five points in what was then the most expensive election in California's history.

Davis’ calculation to interfere in the Republican Primary and to pick his opponent of choice may have been brazen, but it paid off.

More than a decade later, Rep. Tom McClintock – a well-respected conservative icon – faces a similar vulnerability thanks in part to California’s new “jungle primary” system.

Under the new rules, all voters participate in the primary, propelling the top two vote-getters – no matter which party – to advance to the General Election in November.

Three Democrats were considering jumping in the race against McClintock and even pulled papers to run, but at the last second, all three decided bowed out. As the filing deadline approached, Art Moore, a political unknown and self-described “conservative Republican” filed to challenge McClintock.

McClintock believes there’s more to the story telling Breitbart News that Moore is “Manchurian candidate” who wasn’t “even registered to vote until January when he was brought up here by a group of liberal consultants to try to manipulate this new election process.”

Outsiders might dismiss McClintock’s comments as nothing more than right-wing conspiracy theories.  But history has shown Democrats are all too willing to invest significant resources in calculated efforts to manipulate the outcomes of elections.

Moore has tapped Stutzman Public Affairs, founded by Rob Stutzman, who rose to prominence serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Interestingly, the firm’s Vice-President is Democrat Erin Shaw who came up in the press shop of Gov. Gray Davis.

Regardless of whether or not there is a coordinated effort at work, the numbers of the 4th Congressional District of California reveal that McClintock is right to be worried.

The most recent “Report of Registration” by California’s Secretary of State listed 396,856 total registered voters in CD-4.  Of those, 118,094 (29.76%) are Democrats, 182,344 (45.95%) are Republicans, 12,066 (3.04%) are Independent and 75,527 (19.03) list no party preference. 

The not-GOP vote accounts for more than 205,000 (51%) of the total vote, which, coincidentally, is the block Moore is targeting.

The sobering truth is, with the right coalition and financial support, he could easily pull it off. Besides his fundraising plea, McClintock also told his fellow California Republicans at a meeting in the Capitol last week that he was in great danger and asked them for their financial help.

If Moore takes down a top conservative voice in Washington, Democrats have a new playbook. They could stop running Democrats in safe-Republican districts and instead recruit a Republican In Name Only (RINO) and marshal Democrats, Independents and Declined-to-States to take-out seemingly safe-Republicans.

That's why the most important race in California this cycle is Tom McClintock vs Art Moore.

Kurt Bardella is the Founder and CEO of Endeavor Strategic Communications (@endeavorcom) and has worked as an Advisor to Reps. Darrell Issa (CA-49), Brian Bilbray (CA-50) and former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado


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