"This is like two very different people in this epic struggle to see who will lose in November,” said Jon Fleischman, a conservative blogger and former state GOP executive director. “Because of that, it takes on kind of a Keystone Kop-ish feel.”
The race between Kashkari, a moderate Republican, and Donnelly, a tea party favorite, has been billed for months as a test of the ideological direction of the Republican Party in California. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, announced endorsements from former California Gov. Pete Wilson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
But big-name supporters aren’t here rallying with Kashkari. Nor are tea party personalities flying to California to give Donnelly a lift. The race has drawn so little interest that the outcome could just as easily be taken not as a beacon for the party, but as a peculiarity.
“Neither Republican is a marquee figure,” said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at Stanford University. “There’s no glitz factor. There’s just nothing there.”
Yet Donnelly and Kashkari keep fighting like there is. Kashkari, who trails Donnelly badly in publicopinion polls, recently dropped $1 million into his campaign and began airing TV ads in what is likely to be a limited statewide run. He also put up an attack website intended to drag Donnelly down.
Its BuzzFeed-inspired headline: “9 Reasons Why Tim Donnelly Would be a REALLY Bad Choice.”
Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, busied himself online, as well, with his campaign posting social media messages connecting Kashkari to Shariah law. The basis for Donnelly’s claim was a program for an “Islamic Finance 101” seminar at the Treasury Department in 2008, when Kashkari was a senior Treasury official.