Last-ditch efforts for Proposition 19

The campaign for Proposition 19, California’s marijuana legalization measure, is planning a get-out-the-vote rally from 10 to noon tomorrow outside Oakland City Hall, the latest indication that supporters don’t give a hoot what the polls say.

For the polls have not been kind. A Field Poll released yesterday shows 49 percent of likely voters oppose it while 42 percent support it and 9 percent are undecided, with a 3.2 percentage point margin of error; that’s a mirror image of last month’s Field Poll, when 49 percent were in favor and 42 percent were opposed. Other recent polls including the Public Policy Institute of California and the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California survey also showed the measure lagging far behind.

But the $1 million that billionaire financier George Soros put up last week for an eleventh-hour campaign blitz has bought a barrage of television, radio and print ads, including a three-page ad wrapping the main section of today’s Los Angeles Times.

Those scheduled to attend tomorrow’s Oakland rally include Oakland City Attorney John Russo; Prop. 19 proponent and Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee; former Wheatland police officer Nate Bradley; United Food and Commercial Workers union organizer Dan Rush; and lawyer and mom Hanna Dershowitz.

And Prop. 19 campaign advisers Chris Lehane and Dan Newman put out a lengthy memo yesterday explaining why the measure can still win despite the poll numbers. “Provocative ‘Yes’ campaigns have historically won by framing the issue with an effective closing argument,” they wrote. “On this issue a large majority of voters already agree with the final premise, because they share the perspective that the current system of prohibition is a failure.”

Read the whole Lehane/Newman memo, after the jump…

To: Interested Parties
From: Chris Lehane and Dan Newman
Date: October 31, 2010
Re: Election Day Report

With Election Day just days away, Proposition 19 is looking history in the eye and not blinking (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/us/politics/31pot.html).

Proposition 19 is where it is today because of the support, energy and commitment this campaign has received from every corner of the state. Proposition 19 reflects the mosaic that is California — Democrats, Republicans and Independents; Labor and Business; people of all colors and creeds; north and south; east and west; and even Dodgers, Angels, Padres and Giants fans.

And like the San Francisco Giants – we are focused on making history.

Many politicians are talking a good game when it comes to change but Proposition 19 shows that for real change to happen we the people must lead — and then the politicians will follow.

In the context of Election Day, polls that are all over the map and countless stories discussing the impact of Proposition 19, we wanted to provide you an update on the campaign’s strategy and game plan as we close out this election.

Strategically, while 19 is a “Yes” vote, and therefore has the burden of proof to make its case, there is a “No” element to the initiative – and that is to pose the question to voters as to whether they believe the current prohibition approach has worked.

Provocative “Yes” campaigns have historically won by framing the issue with an effective closing argument. On this issue a large majority of voters already agree with the final premise, because they share the perspective that the current system of prohibition is a failure.

The closing argument is being made by compelling voices including law enforcement and moms that are focused on four messages:

1. Prohibition has not worked and reform is needed;
2. 19 will allow us to fight the drug cartels by taking away the black market;
3. 19, by treating marijuana like alcohol, will make it harder for kids to get marijuana; and
4. 19 will generate massive new revenue for the state.

In addition, the campaign benefits from a few key dynamics endemic to this subject:

Youth Energy

California is likely to have the largest turnout of voters under 40 out of all the states, an effect being driven by this initiative. Traditional predictions of the mid-term electorate makeup will not apply to California this time because of the unprecedented excitement surrounding Prop. 19. President Obama benefited from the so-called first time Obama Voters in 2008 — and Prop 19 is going to benefit from people turning out to vote because this initiative is on the ballot.

Sophisticated GOTV & Campus Effort

With partner organizations like Courage Campaign, Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML, Just Say Now, California Young Democrats, and California College Republicans, etc, phone banks are running across the country and calling thousands of voters. We are additionally partnering with coordinated field efforts, including active teams across 25 major California campuses.

State of the Art Technologies

The campaign’s predictive dialer lets us reach 5x more voters than traditional phone banking. A series of statewide, telephone town halls have allowed us to reach tens of thousands of undecided voters in the comfort of their own homes while allowing them to pose questions directly to the campaign. At our last town hall, support surged 17 points over the course of the call.
Yes on 19 continues to dominate in social networking, e.g. on Facebook we have 225,000 followers, more than any other political issue or candidate in California.

Great Silent Majority

Pollsters’ ‘likely voter’ models undercount first-time, young and occasional voters who are most excited about 19.

Voter Frustration

Voters have increasingly become angrier and angrier at the establishment, and this is the most anti-establishment initiative nationally this cycle.

Early Voting

20-25% of the vote happened in the first ten days of absentee voting, when polls indicated 19 was ahead (and the banked votes presumably would reflect those polls).

Paid TV

Our first TV ad aired this week targeting women in the LA market and youth, African-Americans and Latinos elsewhere. It has received over 100K views on YouTube as well as coverage in all major media outlets, including MSNBC and Fox News Channel. Internal polls show the ad swings votes 8 points in 19’s favor. Recent polls were all conducted prior to our going up on the air.

Polls Undercount Support

Respondents are less forthright on controversial issues and 19 performs significantly better in automated surveys than with live interviewers. Pollster Nate Silver has documented this ‘reverse Bradley effect.’ Support will be even higher in the privacy of a voting booth.

Historic Precedent

There is documented reality that marijuana reforms always under-poll and over-perform. In 2008, a Massachusetts decriminalization initiative received 14 more points in the actual ballot box than polls indicated just one week earlier.

Together these factors put 19 in a better position to win on Election Day than is indicated by the mainstream media narrative.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • rosa

    Totally the best campaign literature for November 2010–the sticker I saw on someone’s jacket, saying “Yes We Cannabis”!