By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
With all of the turmoil, Prop. 8 may seem to be the winner. But according to two seasoned political consultants, a Democrat and a Republican who could write entire books on the California mind-set, “Yes on 8” faces an uphill battle. Democratic political strategist Darry Sragow says, “From my experience, most Californians are not liberal but libertarian, [and feel] that government needs to stay out of people’s lives. I think that favors the “No on 8” camp.”
Sragow says both campaigns have effective TV ads that press emotional buttons and exploit the government-intrusion angle. But voters look for cues about which TV ads seem more believable, and Sragow says the “No on 8” message appears “more credible.” “I think the public will wonder if the allegations ‘Yes on 8’ makes are true,” such as the charge that children would automatically be taught about gay marriage in school, Sragow says.
Republican political strategist Arnold Steinberg, however, believes “Yes on 8” was doomed from the get-go. “An effective proposition campaign is run from the outset,” Steinberg tells the Weekly in an e-mail. “That is, put on the right ballot [and] framed properly. Proposition 8 was a nonstarter because it was, quite simply, put on the wrong ballot [November]. Consequently, it was worded pejoratively [by California Attorney General Jerry Brown]. It would have been a near-certain winner on the [June] primary ballot and worded, at least, objectively.”
Steinberg also notes that “Yes on 8” seems “unable to define the ‘yes’ side as affirming the status quo; rather, Proposition 8 appears to be radical, when, in fact, it is not. Since a risk-averse electorate does not want to deny rights, Proposition 8 will lose.” In addition, “No matter what happens nationally,” Steinberg writes, “McCain loses California.” The Democratic Party–financed mailers the voters are receiving will likely all unify against Proposition 8. “The few conservative and Republican [mailers] will be no match. Moreover, Proposition 8, framed ineptly by its sponsors, will do poorly among the state’s growing number of independent voters, far more numerous in the general election than in the primary.”
Still, ProtectMarriage.com spokeswoman Sonya Eddings Brown says the “Yes on 8” campaign is “surging,” so far raising nearly $26 million, and having distributed 1 million “Yes on 8” lawn signs up and down California. “We’re very well-organized, very well-financed and very passionate,” says Brown, a former TV producer in Los Angeles. In comparison to the successful effort behind Prop. 22, which banned same-sex marriage in 2000, the spokeswoman says, “We’ve never had a grass-roots organization of this size.”
On October 22, the Public Policy Institute of California released to the media its latest poll on Prop. 8. Because the institute is known for its accurate, unbiased polling methods, both sides of the battle are anxious to read PPIC’s findings. On August 27, PPIC had found that likely voters against the gay-marriage ban outnumbered supporters of the ban by 14 percentage points — 54 percent to 40 percent. On September 24, another PPIC poll reflected similar numbers, with 55 percent against Prop. 8 and 41 percent in favor.
Now, with less than two weeks until Election Day, the institute’s long-awaited numbers show things have tightened up, with 52 percent of likely voters in their poll opposing the ban and 44 percent supporting it.
“It’s getting closer,” says Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California, “but still, a majority of voters are opposed.”
When asked not about the ban itself but how they feel about same-sex marriage, likely voters flip-flop, suddenly opposing gay marriage by 49 percent to 47 percent. “It’s pointing to the fact that the electorate is closely divided on this issue,” Baldassare says.
But with 67 percent of likely Democratic voters opposing the ban, and Democratic turnout for Barack Obama expected to be big, Baldassare suspects that gay-marriage supporters are well positioned for victory. “What happens with the turnout of the presidential election will have a huge impact,” he says. “That’s really the key.”