Nathan’s Incredibly Bad Move

Eliot NessEliot Ness 16 Comments


If Nathan had made the announcement about his party switch six-months ago it could have been construed as a statement of principle, but because he made the move six-weeks before the election it looks like an act of desperation by a candidate who is stuck in fourth place. Of course, that’s exactly where he is in the latest polling.

But Nathan’s big mistake is in his making the race partisan, which it wasn’t before — and that only helps Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner, both of whom carry official party endorsements. Voter intensity in a primary is driven by partisans and Republican turnout will be disproportionately higher in June because of the presidential ballot. If Nathan is going to rely on Decline to State (DTS) voters to carry him to November he’s whistling past the graveyard (see Tom Campbell).

Then there is the more pragmatic question of what does Nathan do if he somehow magically leaps over Bonnie Dumanis and DeMaio and ends up in a runoff with Filner? Nathan has likely foreclosed on any opportunity that he may have of getting local party help in the fall, because he is, well, not a Republican anymore. Party endorsements are important because in San Diego they expand a candidate’s ability to coordinate their voter contact program.

This move will be regarded as a $500,000 mistake if Nathan makes it to the general. Though Nathan may be counting on help from his newly formed Super PAC “San Diegans for Nathan Fletcher” instead — the very type of vehicle Nathan specifically decries with his support of the California DISCLOSE Act. The PAC has already raised $261,000 from just 18 donors. That fact will likely not go over well with any voters, especially DTSs. Heck, at least political parties are broad based, accountable and publicly elected, not cooked up in a conference room somewhere.

With regard to Nathan’s references to Wisconsin in the video, I find it interesting that he would say he doesn’t want San Diego to become another Wisconsin as if that is the best bellwether of dysfunctional government. In the case of the Badger State, since Scott Walker became governor its budget has gone from a $3 billion deficit to a $300 million surplus which was achieved without the new taxes advocated by the public employee unions. Walker and his legislative allies scaled back business regulation and passed a tort reform measure.

The Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce in a survey of business owners found that 94 percent  say the state is on the right track where only 10 percent came to that conclusion during the previous administration. The state lost a total of 150,000 jobs over that past three year but added 10,000 new jobs in Walker’s first year. Finally, Chief Executive Magazine found that Wisconsin’s business climate enjoyed the greatest one-year improvement of any state in the history of the magazine’s ratings.

Please don’t throw me into that briar patch; heck, I’ll leap there.

But back to sunny San Diego and the question, why was Nathan unsuccessful in gaining the local GOP endorsement? Nathan does have a problem and it’s called his voting record. He has made a series of bad budget votes and, at the behest of Governor Brown and Assembly Speaker John Perez, was the co-author of a $1 billion tax increase on business that was introduced on the last day of the 2011 legislative session. The tax increase was mercifully killed by pro-business Democratic members of the State Senate.

Sure Nathan is more moderate to liberal on social and environmental issues than most Republicans but those views place him in the mainstream with many San Diego voters and something many party activists will look the other way on as long as you’re a reliable fiscal conservative (see Carl DeMaio). It’s quite interesting that apparently the local elected body of the Republican central committee figured this out — and basically called Nathan’s bluff.

And I guess that’s what it comes down to, and to paraphrase from the musical Guys and Dolls, well he just ain’t old “reliable Nathan”.


Comments 16

  1. After reading the very good posts and comments on this page something struck me. George Plescia way back when made one of the BEST political decisions ever in San Diego County, spending a modest sum on radio to get his name out, drive polling numbers up, and scare off the crowd.

    I think when we do the post-mortem on Fletcher’s 2012 race one thing that will be noted is that he would have been FAR better served in doing some voter communication around the first of the year. I leave it up to the CC members to chime in but I cannot help wondering if the votes on endorsement are different if Fletcher was 5-6 points off the lead rather than 15.

  2. I just took a look at Fletcher’s campaign website. Among the muckety-mucks praising Nathan for his rise above partisan politics is Mr. Billion Dollar Tax Increase himself, John Perez — one of the most partisan politicians in Sacramento. Is this really the path Fletcher has chosen?

  3. This was a bad move for Nathan because even with a loss to DeMaio, he still would have had a bright political in Republican politics. That being said, the idea that the SD GOP is the gold standard for what it means to be a Republican (unless the Dem stereotype of us as corrupt, selfish, and greedy is true) is ridiculous, and concur with his sentiments about the SD GOP. But, what it means to be a Republican is much larger than the party bosses any any level, particularly county.

    To the points of the blog post:

    “But Nathan’s big mistake is in his making the race partisan”

    Silly comment. Every race is partisan.

    “Nathan has likely foreclosed on any opportunity that he may have of getting local party help in the fall”

    No he hasn’t. If he somehow makes the runoff, the Party will come crawling back. There is too much potential member comm $ at stake. See Jerry Sanders, 2005.

    “The PAC has already raised $261,000 from just 18 donors. That fact will likely not go over well with any voters”

    That hasn’t been the case before when VoSD exposed big member comm donors.

    “at least political parties are broad based, accountable and publicly elected, not cooked up in a conference room somewhere”

    In principle, yes. In practice, that’s exactly what the SDGOP is.

  4. D. Morton – I think it is just hard to find politicians who have switched party IDs and then been able to return to the fold/run for other partisan offices in the future. Locally, Lucy K. is one – but she is a pretty unique examine – in large part because she was just one of the nicest people I have ever known in politics.

    But winning solves lots of ills. I would guess that if a Congressional seat opens up in the future and Nathan shows early strength past sins will be forgiven – especially if the rest of the field is relatively weak.

  5. “I think it is just hard to find politicians who have switched party IDs and then been able to return to the fold/run for other partisan offices in the future”


    I agree 100%. When I said he would have still had a bright future after losing to DeMaio, I meant assuming he kept his party id. Frankly, I think this move makes the mayor race all off nothing for his career. If he manages the run-off, the Party crawls back to him. If he doesn’t, I think its unlikely we’ll see him running for office again…at least in this state.

    But as I said before, the loss is not just his.

  6. For all you political junkies out there, mark yesterday’s date.

    March 28, 2012 was the day Nathan Fletcher ended his political career as an elected official at the young age of 35. He will not win another election ever again.

    Ronald Reagan lost in the Republican primaries, TWICE. George H.W. Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney all lost the Republican nomination. They didn’t leave the party.

    Instead of taking the hit of losing the GOP endorsement due to his horrific campaign team and think about his future, Nathan Fletcher posted a YouTube video yesterday morning of a narcissistic temper tantrum that is fundamentally dishonest, as well as ending his political career.

    In the end, yesterday’s display proved to us what many knew and some feared, Nathan Fletcher only cares about Nathan Fletcher, and he will literally do anything to win, even if it means revealing to the public that he has NO core.

    When you rise too fast, when your head gets too big, apparently… you throw it all away.

  7. Erik,

    Hard to find politicians who have switched parties and then won future partisan races? Really? What about the Democrat who headed a labor union and later changed his party affiliation to Republican? What about Ronald Reagan?

  8. It is hard in current american politics…and the RR example isn’t that good since he was NOT an elected official. Seriously – when was the last time it happened in California (and especially in san Diego). Lucy K…..can’t remember anyone else than her and as noted above, she had characteristics that really no one on the current scene had (i.e. number one pick for “grandmother I would have if I could have 3”)

  9. Not sure about California, but Senators Lieberman and Murkowski are more recent examples of those elected to a high office after going the independent route.

  10. Statewide, no one. Even Lucy didn’t change until after she won the special election to replace Larry Stirling, after serving 7 years in the assembly, not to mention city council.. Audie Block up in Oaktown won a special election as a Green party, however, she lost the general election to a Democrat. Dom Cortese a Democrat from San Jose became a Reform party member in 1995. In 1996 when he ran for state senate under that moniker, for a district he had represented more than half of in the assembly, he received less than 10% of the vote. Only Quentin Kopp, a San Francisco supervisor, was able to win election as an Independent, barely edging out Democrat assemblyman Lou Papan, with only a token Republican candidacy.

    As I mentioned in a another post, Linda Parks, a “Republican” supervisor, is running for congress to replace Elton Gallegly, as an Independent/Decline-to-State, but even that was after she realized there was to chance to advancing with Tony Strickalnd in the race.

    Alger – How about Arlen Spector? Also, Reagan had never held elected office as a Democrat. It’s one thing to do it as a private citizen. It’s a whole different situation, when one has been elected and voted as a member of one party, compiling a partisan record. Even those that are able to pull it off, usually have a lot of goodwill built up in there community from years of service in non-partisan positions, and the name value that goes along with it to pull off the old switcheroo.

  11. Ronald Reagan became a Republican during Dwight Eisenhower’s
    first presidential race (1952). Reagan did not seek elective
    office till 14 years later, California’s governorship in 1966.
    Not an analagous situation.

    Lucy Killea was already an incumbent state senator in 1992,
    running for re-election to a final term. No Democrat filed
    to run against her that year, signifying the Party believed
    she would vote with Democrats in Sacramento if re-elected.

  12. Jim, Marshall, Erik,

    I think you are overlooking the fact that California no longer has partisan primaries. The game has changed and you may no longer need a major party endorsement to get into the runoff in a race for Congress, Senate or Governor. Once in the run-off, I believe an independent would have a huge advantage.

  13. Political parties may no longer play the role they used to. They have been replaced by the public employee unions, corporate welfare pigs, and all the others out to suck the public coffers dry. Follow the money.

  14. You may have a point Alger, but campaigns in states that already employ the jungle primary suggest that getting to the run-off becomes exceedingly difficult as an independent…albeit it does happen when the campaign is savvy enough to make the right positioning calculations.

    Also interesting, a KPBS/10News poll is saying that Fletcher support jumped 8% (albeit in what looks to me like a highly flawed poll). I was hoping it would spark a thread on Rostra, but so far nothing…so I’ll post it.

  15. In the poll mentioned by D. Morton, 27 percent said they “HAD supported Fletcher, and STILL support Fletcher.” Yet, no other poll out there has ever had him higher than 20 percent, and most have him at 10 to 13 percent. FLAWED polling, this one, or a bunch of pollees are fibbing.

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