YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Gov. Aims to Get Out Vote Selectively

With Schwarzenegger's initiatives lagging in polls, he hopes the state's Democratic majority and opponents in the GOP stay home.

November 01, 2005|Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered next week's special election to take his agenda to "the people," but his campaign strategy relies on relatively few people showing up next Tuesday and large segments of voters staying home.

The governor's plan -- "micro-targeting" voters, advertising in selected markets to reach them and conducting daily polls to augur the political mood -- is guided by a single premise: If every Democrat and every Republican in California votes next week, Schwarzenegger's measures are likely to lose.

The Republican governor entered the final week of the special election campaign invoking the bipartisan "people's revolt" that swept him to power in the recall campaign two years ago. But his strategy for getting voters to the polls focuses on a small group of loyal Republicans to support the initiatives he has endorsed on the ballot.

There are about 1.2 million more Democrats than Republicans in California, and major public opinion surveys have shown that none of the governor's measures is winning. With those statistics in mind, Schwarzenegger's campaign has put many of its resources into just motivating loyal Republicans.

"The world is run by those who show up," said Ron Nehring, vice chairman of the California Republican Party, who is helping Schwarzenegger get GOP supporters to the polls.

Off-year elections tend to elicit a low turnout. And the special election is about ideas rather than candidates, with a ballot containing eight statewide initiatives -- four embraced by Schwarzenegger. Voters tend to engage less in a debate over initiatives than in deciding who will represent them, election experts say.

In addition, television ads by the governor's opponents encouraging a "no" vote on his measures have blanketed the airwaves -- something experts said also could discourage people from showing up.

A week from today, the governor wants voters to approve Proposition 74, which would make it more difficult for teachers to earn tenure; Proposition 75, which would restrict public employee unions' collection of dues for politics; Proposition 76, which would cap state spending and give governors more control over the budget; and Proposition 77, which would strip legislators of the authority to draw their own districts.

As the campaign enters its final days, the governor has attempted to broaden his message. He has launched a new statewide television ad in which he asks Californians to "give me the tools to do the job you elected me to do." And he has scheduled several TV appearances in markets that allow him to reach a large segment of voters.

Despite polls showing that Schwarzenegger's popularity is low, his campaign says people might come out and vote for his measures simply to give him another chance.

"The public has a very complex relationship with this governor," spokesman Todd Harris said.

But most of his campaigning has been highly partisan, aimed at the core of the Republican Party. Recent public opinion surveys have shown that Schwarzenegger is having trouble persuading a sizable segment of Republicans to stand by him.

A Public Policy Institute of California survey showed last week that 34% of Republicans either disapproved or were indifferent to how the governor "is handling the issue of reforming California government," compared with 66% of GOP members who approved.

"We have to start with our members," said Nehring, the state GOP's expert on voter turnout.

In recent weeks, Schwarzenegger has campaigned heavily in conservative areas such as Fresno, San Diego, Redding, Orange County and Sacramento. Today he is scheduled to participate in conservative talk radio programs and campaign in Republican-dominated areas -- San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield and Palm Springs.

His TV advertising also has been sectarian: Except on some cable stations, he has declined to run ads in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is heavily Democratic.

The governor has collected more than $40 million for his campaign but is spending most of it on ads and does not have his own get-out-the-vote operation. The state Republican Party is handling that for him, which is unusual in initiative fights.

Nehring said the most effective method of drawing voters to the polls is face-to-face contact, which the party is attempting with a field operation that consists of "Republican volunteers standing on the doorstep of Republican voters."

Schwarzenegger also is expected to make "robo-calls," recorded telephone messages that are auto-dialed to supporters, which the campaign believes are effective at getting Republicans to vote.

The party has hired a firm called TargetPoint Consulting in Alexandria, Va., which specializes in "micro-targeting" -- identifying voters down to such details as their magazine subscriptions, buying habits and TV viewing preferences.

Los Angeles Times Articles