Moving away from direct mail, Caruso saturates broadcast television with a more disciplined message that is resonating with an angry electorate with just days remaining in this mayoral contest
By Nick Antonicello
They say “money is the mother’s milk of politics,” but a more focused and persuasive message is what wins elections.
For that has been the critical media adjustment mayoral candidate Rick Caruso has made in this second game of a double-header with Karen Bass, the first place finisher in the primary, but seemingly a sinking candidacy in this runoff.
For all the money in the world won’t matter if the message being brought to the public is fragmented, as voters want a clear and concise reason why they should support you.
For Caruso has certainly found his voice in October.
After papering mailboxes in the June Primary and a less than appealing broadcast purchase, the Caruso campaign pretty much abandoned direct mail and focused on a much improved television buy that has seemingly evaporated the Bass advantage that has Caruso surging as the candidates reach the proverbial top of the stretch so to speak.
While some say had Caruso not dropped some $45 million dollars in the June effort, there would be no runoff as Bass still received 44% of the primary vote and that huge media buy probably did enough to deny her a first ballot victory.
But now in this one-on-one scenario, Caruso has managed to deflate the issue of abortion as well as his prior status as a registered Republican with a spot that he talks directly to voters proclaiming the GOP no longer “shared his values” and that he would fight to protect a woman’s right to choose despite his long standing affiliation with the Catholic Church.
Caruso comes across authentic, real and passionate on his position, something the Bass campaign has failed to rebut.
And let’s face it, is abortion really a municipal priority in a city where nuts and bolts issues like high crime, street encampments and the overall quality of life has suffered for most LA voters?
Caruso has successfully been able to take political labels and national politics out of the discussion and center the contest on crime and homelessness in an effective fashion with memorable solutions while Bass continues to speak in platitudes even here in the final days of the contest.
The second Caruso spot was in many ways a game changer for his candidacy as the campaign cleverly noted the Los Angeles Times preference to his homeless proposals, almost lifting their endorsement of Bass to Caruso!
The spot speaks to the cornerstone of the Caruso campaign which is executing emergency action like creating 30,000 beds and hiring hundreds of sanitation workers to clean a filthy and dirty Los Angeles. For this spot suggests a third-party testimonial from the newspaper of record despite the fact they endorsed Bass, a compromised candidate with a scandal following her at USC long after this campaign is over.
For any aspiring consultant, political junkie or message-maker should now see a text book example of pivoting and turning the LA Times Bass endorsement into their favor by stressing a side-by-side policy comparison with Bass instead.
For what people seek in these exhaustive and angry times are solutions, and the solutions-based candidacy of a private business owner who also has a good sprinkle of volunteer public service at the highest of levels for decades makes for a strong case for his “change” message.
For how can the LA Times endorse Bass, but prefer the Caruso proposal in a race where homelessness is the overriding discussion?
And because Caruso has such an overwhelming dollar advantage in a race where he is now closing in on $100 million in expenditures, the Bass effort is almost helpless and will need to rely on a superior ground game that taps into her longtime record as a progressive & liberal Democrat to overcome a clear messaging nightmare in which she lacks the funds to respond.
Polling now suggests a dead heat, but it seems Caruso is now the surging front-runner at exactly the right time and moment.
A friend recently held a voting party and indicated that of some 30 or so in attendance, they all were supporting Caruso for mayor.
Unless Bass can get off the mat and make a case why an embedded career politician is the answer to the problems at City Hall, Rick Caruso could very well be measuring the drapes as the new chief executive here in Los Angeles.
For here comes a new boss, certainly not like the departing one!
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who is covering the race for LA’s next mayor and how it will impact the neighborhood of Venice. Have a take or a tip on the contest? E-mail Antonicello at firstname.lastname@example.org