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Column: Can Caruso Can?

Billionaire developer’s forty-million dollar plus campaign falls short and flat, as he limps into runoff with Washington, DC insider Karen Bass!

 By Nick Antonicello

The race for LA Mayor has taken a “timeout” of sorts as some see this as “half-time” while those who play chess would recognize that it’s a whole new campaign and the numbers do not bode well for second-place finisher Rick Caruso.

The billionaire yacht-owning developer invested some $41 million dollars in the June 7th Primary, much of his own, to say nothing of the $3,472,197.97 in Independent Expenditure dollars focused on attacking the record of first-place finisher Rep. Karen Bass, the actual Democrat in the runoff to succeed outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti who is headed to India should the US Senate approve his nomination by President Joe Biden.

For Karen Bass comfortably led Rick Caruso with 43.11% of the vote to his 35.99% or a 7-point plus win.

Bass led in the popular vote 278,511 to 232,490 to defeat Caruso by 46,021.

Given these numbers, it looks like a sinking yacht for developer Caruso in the November runoff since 70% of the remaining vote was shared by LA Councilman Kevin de Leon (50,372) and liberal/progressive independent Gina Viola (44,341), that share of the vote is overwhelmingly expected to select Bass.

Can Caruso actually make a race of it?

Compounding Caruso’s dilemma beyond the fact he was only able to secure a shade under 36%, despite the avalanche of personal spending, does he “reset and reframe” a message that is too narrow and perceived as non-inclusive?

Will his collection of paid professionals right a ship that is clearly in the wrong direction?

And while money is the mother’s milk of campaigns and politics, this obscene amount of spending leveled at Bass barely mattered, and one could say had Team Caruso not spent what they did collectively, Congresswoman Bass would be now described as Mayor-elect Karen Bass!

For is there an actual path for victory for Rick Caruso after examining these results?

A closer looks displays the lack of efficiency in this $40,000,000 plus investment by the Caruso campaign when his cost-per-vote was $176.16 to Bass, who’s cost was just $11.77!

Clearly, if not for the money,  just how hollow is this apparent empty suit of a campaign thus far?

If you take the funding opposing Bass by Neighbors for a Safer and Cleaner Los Angeles ($3,472,197.97), you had nearly $46 million dollars spent on behalf of Team Caruso and the voter yield was just 35.99%!

For in a 12-candidate race, the Caruso message of law & order and cleaning-up street encampments hardly resonated at all.

For the devil is the details and Caruso’s messaging clearly lacked clarity and that will be a challenge moving forward in a two-person field.

For it is tough to attack a woman, especially one who comes across positive, optimistic and likable such as Karen Bass.

Logistically, Bass still has $1.4 million leftover from the June 7th Primary while Caruso’s cash-on-hand is just a shade under $700,000!

So what does Caruso do now?

Does he invest another $40 million dollars in the general after this extremely disappointing primary performance?

Will current donors of Caruso suffer from contributor’s remorse given these results and hedge their bets on Bass being the apparent new mayor in waiting?

For this Democrat-in-name-only (DINO), who has flirted with both political parties for decades has a tough road to hoe if he is to cobble a unique coalition of Westside, Valley and conservative voters with some semblance of moderates and working class Hispanics who so far don’t seem to be part of the 35% equation Caruso did receive in the multiple-candidate, primary field.

And while the Caruso campaign is a virtual ATM machine for pollsters, consultants, publicists and those who make their living off campaigns, how do they “spin” these results to a candidate, while qualified and competent, is there a way to win moving forward?

For the Caruso effort has been woefully pre-packaged to date, a media blitz of sorts that has now gone “dark” as they rethink and reevaluate where to go from here.

For a house-cleaning of bad advice seems logical or at least evident when you consider Bass beat Caruso here in Venice where the homeless encampment issue has been dominant and obvious for years, and Traci Park, the CD-11 council hopeful who placed her hopes on being the anti-homeless, pro law & order alternative did beat Erin Darling, a fellow lawyer and life-long resident here in Dog Town on that message alone, but not districtwide.

Like Caruso, Park is right-of-center and a populist, and her hard work, drive and grit yielded different results which speaks to a fundamental flaw in the Caruso campaign.

For if Venice is not in “Caruso Country,” his prospects of turning this ship around is dim indeed.

Nick Antonicello is a long-time Venetian covering the races for LA City Council (CD-11) and Mayor. He can be reached via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

in Opinion
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