Neel Kashkari swings an axe in his ubiquitous television commercial. But he hasn’t found an axe big enough to cut into Tim Donnelly’s lead among Republican voters. A new Hoover Institution “Golden State” poll shows that Kashkari is only pulling 5% of the vote, barely above the 4% margin of error, a distant third behind popular Democrat incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown at 36%, and Tea Party favorite Assemblyman Tim Donnelly with 12%.
A large chunk of voters–35% overall–is still undecided. Kashkari will need to tap into those voters in the final few days of the race in order to finish in the top two in the state’s new “jungle” primary system and survive to the November runoff. Yet after spending some $4 million–including $2 million of his own–Kashkari is still far behind his GOP rival, who has spent merely tens of thousands of dollars and has faced severe media headwinds.
The Republican establishment has been pouring money into independent expenditures in an effort to avoid a Donnelly matchup with Brown. They fear that Donnelly’s staunch and at times rhetorically blunt conservatism would be bad for the party’s image as a whole. Already, Kashkari has likened Donnelly to Todd Akin–a Senate candidate in 2012 whose bizarre comments on abortion hurt Republicans up and down the ticket nationwide.
Kashkari’s problem, however, is that voters do not see enough space between him and Brown. Aside from his opposition to high-speed rail–a position shared by most Californians–Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official, has presented little to distinguish himself from a governor whose modest fiscal achievements have even earned support from past GOP donors. Donnelly offers a stronger alternative–and looks set to finish strong, too.