As I walked through Carly Fiorina's posh headquarters in downtown Sacramento Tuesday evening, campaign manager Marty Wilson generously welcomed me into his office for an informal chat about the state of the race. With a photo of the infamous (and still unnerving) Demonsheep pinned to a bulletin board over his left shoulder, Wilson walked through the closing arguments that Team Carly hopes voters will internalize over the campaign's final weeks. It's a three-pronged message:
(a) Washington is a dysfunctional mess.
(b) Barbara Boxer is part-and-parcel of that broken system.
(c) In order to change the system, voters much change the people they send to Washington.
A duo of new Fiorina TV ads hit these themes hard, as we reported yesterday. The spots delicately thread the messaging needle by forcefully making all three points without coming across as an overly harsh attack on the incumbent. Wilson attributed the success of this political tightrope walk to what he called the campaign's greatest asset, by far: The candidate herself.
Tactically, Wilson said the campaign is determined to win between 55 and 60 percent of "swing voters," which he identified as people who either decline to divulge their party affiliation, or who regularly switch parties. He also said a critical campaign goal is driving up participation among "low propensity Republicans." This designation describes Republican-leaning voters who typically eschew primary and off-year (non-presidential) elections. According to Team Carly's analysis, there are nearly 2 million such voters in California, 54 percent of whom currently report they're planning to vote on November 2nd. Wilson said the campaign needs to boost that number up to 60 percent or higher over the next three weeks.
Finally, Wilson said the unpredictable 'X' factor of voter enthusiasm lurks in the background of the race, and could prove decisive. Recent national surveys indicate that Republicans stand to benefit immensely from an enthusiasm gap among likely voters in 2010, but just how big that chasm will be, and the extent to which it will make an impact on the Left coast, remain mysteries.
Several top Fiorina aides also point to California's Central Valley--which has been decimated by obdurate and pernicious unemployment--as an absolutely key region that could allow Fiorina to clinch a very close race. Team Carly has focused a great deal of attention on this area already, and Fiorina will make another appearance in Fresno tomorrow afternoon. I will join several campaign aides on their trek down to the event, details of which I will report here later in the week.
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