Very cynical ads support Newsom and Bonta ahead of California primary

The release of two new campaign ads in the past week strongly suggests that California Governor Gavin Newsom and supporters of Attorney General Rob Bonta are trying to select certain Republican opponents as general election opponents – choices that would virtually guarantee victories by both incumbents in November.

In a new radio advert released this week, a group supporting Bonta sheds light on the positions of Republican attorney Eric Early, one of four Bonta opponents in the June primary election. The ad portrays Early as “a true conservative” and “a huge Trump supporter.”

However, the announcement appears to encourage voters to support Early.

“He’s pro-life, pro-Trump and pro-guns,” the ad reads. “…Let’s not forget to vote early, before the June 7 Attorney General election.”

In the California primaries, the top two voters qualify for the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The ad supporting Bonta, a Democrat, represents a political tactic in which an incumbent boosts an opponent’s name recognition in hopes that the opponent will wipe out the primary and qualify for the overall.

In other words, the group thinks Bonta could easily beat Early. In their minds, a primary win by a different candidate — like independent Anne Marie Schubert or Nathan Hochman, a GOP-endorsed Republican from California — could result in a deadlier overall campaign.

An Early primary victory, on the other hand, would likely allow Bonta to relax and win re-election in November given California voters’ propensity to elect Democrats to statewide office. Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in the state.

FILE – California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. Bonta who was nominated by Governor Gavin Newsom, after the Former Attorney General Xavier Becerra was appointed to the Biden administration, facing election challenges from Republicans and an independent who blame him for rising crime rates.Rich Pedroncelli/AP

While the Bonta publicity is very on the nose – the use of the word “early”, which has a double meaning in this case, is no accident – the tactic the band uses is not uncommon. Newsom seemed to do something similar, though more subtly, in an announcement posted last week.

In the ad, which premiered two days after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed the body planned to overturn Roe v. Wade, Newsom takes on Republican Senator Brian Dahle for his stance on abortion.

“With reproductive freedom under threat, who can California women count on to defend our rights?” says the narrator of the ad. “GOP-endorsed Sen. Brian Dahle stands with Donald Trump. Dahle wants to roll back the right to abortion, by punishing women and doctors.

One could interpret the move as Newsom, a Democrat, trying to land early blows on the challenger he sees as his biggest threat. However, by singling out Dahle, Newsom is actually elevating his views above those of the other 24 challengers vying for his seat.

Having name recognition and ensuring messages reach voters is critical for candidates in a crowded primary field. Newsom’s decision to highlight Dahle – rather than let him wade through the dark – would only make sense if Newsom believed he could beat him one-on-one.

Last year, Newsom rebuffed a recall attempt, calling the process a “Republican recall.” In this election, the candidate who received the most support from recall supporters was radio host Larry Elder – a conservative who once said the ideal minimum wage is $0.

On the heels of that win, Newsom likely thinks he has a good chance of defeating nearly every contestant with an “R” next to their name — and for good reason. However, a race against popular independent Michael Shellenberger or one of the three other Democrats who filed in the primaries would be a tougher general election to predict.

Ballots are expected to arrive in mailboxes this week, if they haven’t already. They must be postmarked by June 7 and must arrive at the county election office no later than seven days after Election Day to count.

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