Caruso’s massive ad campaign appears to be paying off in the Los Angeles mayoral race

The six-term MP’s campaign is feeling the heat, pleading for money and volunteers to knock on doors in an explosion of emails Thursday night. “We need it more than ever,” he said.

The most likely culprit for the turnaround is money. A lot. Caruso covered the airwaves in one of America’s most expensive media markets, spending more than $81 million compared to Bass’s $11 million, according to the City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

“Step away from the morning news, get in the car, and you’ll still be inundated with ads,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic consultant who led incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2013 campaign. “The overwhelming majority is for Caruso. He’s on TV in Spanish. He’s on Asian media platforms. He’s everywhere.

An unknown factor is the scandal at LA City Hall, caused by the release of a leaked recording in which the council members are heard plotting to manipulate district boundaries while using offensive and racist language. Some observers think it might help Bass but Caruso has sought to exploit the revelations like proof that local government – ​​and by extension established politicians like the MP – are tarnished.

“The fact that there’s more chaos in City Hall certainly seems to me to be telling voters that new leadership is needed,” said Caruso campaign spokesman Peter Ragone.

Either way, it’s a surprising turnaround. Analysts were writing Caruso’s political obituary this summer, following his worse-than-expected primary results followed by dismal polls. It was hard to imagine he was once on a roll, attracting celebrities and national media coverage as he presented himself as the candidate who could tackle a dramatic rise in homelessness, the cost of high life and anxiety about crime in the second-largest city.

Then came the June primary. Caruso outshot Bass 11 to 1, but he finished seven points behind her. A few weeks later, the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade opened the billionaire, a former Republican, to criticism for past donations to opponents of abortion rights – an unpopular move in this deeply blue city.

Political analysts still give the edge at this point to Bass, a community activist who became California Assembly Speaker and then a congressman shortlisted to be President Joe Biden’s vice president. But a recent poll by the Southern California News Group came as a shock to many.

The poll, released this week, showed the two were locked in a statistical stalemate, with a large portion of voters – nearly 25% – still undecided. The results are considered credible by polling experts despite the small sample size of 400 likely voters.

The result is that there is a lot of uncertainty. “I think everyone should be worried,” Carrick said. “We are two weeks away and, clearly, these will be two very important weeks.”

Caruso’s quick comeback can be attributed in large part to his publicity dominance, which allowed him to take advantage of the City Hall scandal and push more people into the undecided column, analysts say.

“That’s probably the root cause of most of the moves you’ve seen,” said Mark DiCamillo, polling director at Berkeley’s Institute for Government Studies. “The Caruso campaign has been the primary source of new information for voters.”

The imbalance left the Bass campaign furious.

“It’s no surprise that $80 million worth of deceptive attack ads and mailings, and a paid canvassing team of 400 people spreading lies helped Republican Rick catch us,” the campaign said. in the email. “If this makes you angry, we understand – it’s morally and ethically wrong and no one should be able to buy their way into City Hall!”

Rallying outrage is perhaps the best they can do. The Bass campaign does not have access to the resources of a developer best known for creating high-end Los Angeles malls such as The Grove.

Their efforts over the past few weeks will rely heavily on text messages and social media, as well as high-level endorsements, said Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Gonzalez, who endorsed the congresswoman. . Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton have all appeared alongside Bass in recent weeks, and his backers also include popular Los Angeles natives like Sen. Alex Padille and former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The election is expected to set a new turnout record, an outcome that would likely attract younger and more ideologically left-leaning voters, in favor of Bass. But the recent poll has forced many to recalibrate their views on running.

“You can’t ignore it. It’s one thing to be a dozen points ahead. It’s another thing to be tied, at least, in the polls. You have to take it for what it’s worth,” said Mike Trujillo, who advised councilman Joe Buscaino’s unsuccessful election campaign.

Caruso’s money allowed him to have Angelenos’ full attention. It became both positive and negative, disparaging Bass about a full scholarship she received from USC and a speech she gave at a Scientology event, while highlighting her plan to build 30,000 shelter beds in one year. It also gave him the luxury of going after low-propensity voters others have chosen not to court in the past, said John Shallman, a political consultant who ran City Attorney Mike’s unsuccessful campaign. Fire at the town hall.

But Caruso could also reach saturation point. It could be, Shallman said, that all that money did all the harm it could do among crucial undecided voters.

“There’s no way these people don’t know who he is right now,” he said. “They know him, and they don’t choose him. And that would suggest that the undecided are more likely to fall for Karen, regardless of demographic.

Jeremy B. White contributed to this report.


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