Analysis: Neel Kashkari Gives Establishment Republicans a Breather

Analysis: Neel Kashkari Gives Establishment Republicans a Breather

Neel Kashkari’s victory for a distant second place in California’s gubernatorial primary means he will have another opportunity to get trounced by Governor Jerry Brown in November. 

Former U.S. Treasury official and Goldman Sachs guru Kashkari, considered to be the establishment Republican, defeated conservative firebrand California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly by garnering 19% of the vote, while his opponent netted 15%.

Kashkari edging out Donnelly was a muted victory if you consider everything he had to muster in order to accomplish the feat. Moreover, working in Kashkari’s favor were controversial comments that Donnelly made as an anti-illegal immigration activist. Also, the media repeatedly attacked Donnelly for his insinuation that Kashkari was a pro-Sharia candidate.

Most notably, Kashkari dumped $2 million dollars of his own money and added another three million from contributors and PACs across the nation to pull out the win. In contrast, back in March, the Sacramento Bee reported that Donnelly had only $11,000 on hand to combat the Kashkari TV advertising assault that ran steadily over the final weeks of the race.

Playing a key factor in Kashkari’s overall 2nd place finish, the former TARP strategist was able to land huge endorsements from former Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, erstwhile California Governor Pete Wilson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, iconic California Congressman Darrell Issa, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, and others.

On top of this, Kashkari actually ran to the right of what are his real philosophical beliefs. Kashkari is pro-abortion, pro-common core, a pro-government bailout interventionist, a climate change advocate, and in favor of government-run healthcare. Yet, you heard none of this in his campaign against Donnelly and Brown. The themes by which he defined himself, in an effort to align himself with tea party sentiments, were an anti-bullet train agenda and that he would balance the budget.

In the final analysis, Donnelly couldn’t withstand the onslaught. Tea Party candidates, in order to win in left-wing California, are going to have to squeeze a lot more juice from their supporters and are going to need to be stealth candidates who avoid no confidence votes by conservative groups.

That being said, Donnelly’s fight was impressive and admirable given his huge disadvantages. In a David and Goliath battle, though, he needed a little bigger slingshot to be in the hunt this November.