By Phat Jim / San Diego Politico / August 22, 2011
What in the Sam Hell. . .
To those of you out there who are more closely intertwined with politics than I am these days, I have one question – what in the sam hell is Bonnie Dumanis doing? It looks like Dumanis and DeMaio are both skipping the mayoral debates between now and Oct. 17.
Now traditionally, the old view in politics is that the only activities a candidate should do during a campaign is talking to voters and talking to donors. Any time spent talking to people who won’t vote for you, or give you money is wasted time. But that mindset is usually for later stages of the campaign. Right now, voters aren’t really going to make up their minds, so the only thing to do is focus on endorsements, donor credibility and pumping up name ID. Debates help all three.
That is, unless you already have all three. For Carl DeMaio, who has strong name ID, a loyal base of contributors and more than enough endorsements, showing up to a debate would be a bad idea. What if Filner humiliates DeMaio? What if DeMaio says or does the wrong thing? In politics, and particularly for front-runners (and DeMaio is the de facto frontrunner at this point), no publicity is better than bad publicity. There is no upside for DeMaio.
But Dumanis is riding in an entirely different kind of boat. She has not raised the $300-500k that DeMaio and Fletcher have; her name ID is good, but not great; and, her centrist position is seriously damaged by having Fletcher and Filner in the race (who hit her from the right and the left). In other words, Dumanis is a “frontrunner” who has a diminishing base, lacks funds, and little name ID. Having the opportunity to spar with Fletcher and Filner, who are the cause of her woes, seems like a no-brainer.
So, with that said, I have three theories:
1) Dumanis deathly afraid of debates: This is the least likely, as Dumanis isn’t just an attorney, but she’s a litigator. We litigators debate everything, and will debate anywhere. You know where I’ve had the most debates in my career as a litigator? In my office, with my co-workers. Dumanis maybe the DA, but she’s a litigator at heart.
2) Dumanis thinks her position is stronger than it is: Ah, self-delusion, the true mother’s milk of politics. It is possible that Dumanis and her political team think that Dumanis is in a DeMaio-like position? The short answer is yes. But Dumanis’ people are too smart to think this way. Unless you’ve been running for mayor for the past four years (DeMaio), they have to know that any polling at this point is very, very soft, and vote and money erosion is likely.
3) Dumanis is thinking of dropping out: There have been reports that Dumanis is thinking of dropping out. While I don’t think this is likely, it is possible that Dumanis now realizes that this is going to be a much tougher race than she previously thought, and is planning on dropping out. If that’s the case, then it makes sense to not debate because why through good money after bad? Or, she could be laying low to see how the numbers shake out in the next fundraising cycle.
With all that said, I don’t have my ears to the ground, so I have no idea what is going to happen.