So how and why did Moorlach really beat Wagner? Elections have a lot of moving parts, and it is hard to nail down what worked and what didn’t. The OC Register delivered their analysis after talking with campaign consultants on both sides. They examined the votes Moorlach got in his hometown, versus votes Wagner got in his hometown. They analyzed and parsed the numbers for this precinct and that precinct. It’s time somebody — anybody — stopped counting the tree rings and stepped back a few yards and looked at the forest. Because past all the data crunching and self-serving analysis, three things became abundantly clear to this observer.
Everyone… the Register, Deborah Pauly, and the consultants chimed in on NAME RECOGNITION. Sure, Moorlach had lots of name recognition but so did Wagner. Consider this though: Wagner’s campaign sent out lots of mailers, to a bored and distracted electorate, trumpeting Moorlach’s malfeasance and misdeeds. Okay fine. Forget for a moment any blowback from the negative campaign. Remember Big Tim Sullivan, the notoriously corrupt 1920’s Tammany Hall Democrat is the real guy credited with the quotation: “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Think about this for a moment — three out of four mailers voters received from Wagner or the outside interests, had MOORLACH at the top. I suggest it didn’t matter that they offered flaws in Moorlach’s prior government service — it featured MOORLACH over and over again. Wagner’s campaign inadvertently fulfilled Sullivan’s 1920’s advice — the repetition of Moorlach, Moorlach, Moorlach. This backfired on Wagner not only because it was so negative, but it kept putting Moorlach’s name front and center. Only one out of four of all Wagner’s mailers featured DON WAGNER name at the top.
And let’s tread into sensitive territory. The word on the the OC STREET was Wagner was lazy in his campaign and didn’t take it as seriously as he should have. He didn’t reach out to voters on a personal and aggressive level. He apparently didn’t host or attend that many community events. He faded when it mattered most, and word also is many Republicans in the legislature are pissed off he ran a lackluster campaign. That doesn’t bode well for his chances in future public service.
Finally, the mainstream OCGOP machine forgot that a strong conservative base still exists in Orange County. Many centrist Republicans in California and nationwide have sought to marginalize the Tea Party and other conservative groups. But they do so at their peril in OC, and this election spelled that out with a Royal Flush. This wasn’t just about union influence alone, though that appeared to be a key issue in the campaign. It was really about a motivated, activist hard conservative electorate that showed up at the polls while the ho-hum OCGOP did not. This proves that OC’s conservative base can marginalize the OCGOP if they want to. Take heed.
But keep this on the QT!