If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


No Fireworks with Harmer, Garamendi

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

No journalist who has followed Lt. Gov. John Garamendi over the years could be surprised at his answer to the final question at Monday night's debate at St. Mary's College among candidates competing to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, in Tuesday's special election. When an opportunity for fulsome flattery presents itself, Garamendi does not miss a beat.

Reading a question from the audience, Contra Costa Times columnist Lisa Vorderbrueggen asked the five participants -- Democrat Garamendi, Republican David Harmer, Peace and Freedom's Mary McIlroy, American Independent Jerry Denham and Green candidate Jerry Cloward -- if they'd be willing to hold at least three annual town hall meetings.

Garamendi's answer: "If you are the moderator, I'd have more than three." The three minor-party candidates gave earnest answers. As for Harmer, he agreed to at least three town halls if Vorderbrueggen moderated -- and the League of Women Voters sponsored.

Better still: Harmer then recognized the GOP's big image problem -- that talk is cheap. "We can't talk our way out of the problems we behaved our way into." He has found a way to reflect conservative values and pragmatism.

This summer, Harmer told The Chronicle that he had "no interest" in motivating the GOP base and "alienating everyone else." He meant it. At the debate, Harmer actually asked his more vocal supporters in the audience, who turned out in high numbers, to refrain from making noise during the questions and answers.

Conventional wisdom holds that Garamendi is a shoo-in to win on Tuesday. In the Sept. 1 primary, Democrats drew 63 percent of the vote, and they enjoy an 18 percent registration edge over Republicans. Garamendi garnered more votes -- 27,580 -- than Harmer's 22,582.

There's also the impressive Garamendi resume -- he's a former insurance commissioner, and was running for governor when Tauscher announced her resignation to fill a top position in the U.S. State Department. Garamendi is clearly fluent on the issues. His high name identification enabled him to win a hotly contested primary in a district where, as a nonresident, he is not a registered voter.

I thought Harmer would hammer Garamendi for sending out a mailer that, citing a 2004 Utah news report, said Harmer "supports offshoring jobs." The problem: The mailer quoted the wrong David Harmer. It was a sloppy mistake. But Monday night, both front-runners apparently decided not to swing wildly in the mud.

Instead they showcased their very different views on what Washington should be doing. Harmer said he would "respectfully challenge" President Obama to beef up the war effort in Afghanistan, as promised during the campaign. Garamendi contends, "We will not win this war militarily."

Garamendi supports the public option. Harmer supports more competition in the private market. Garamendi wants to push Obama's domestic agenda; Harmer wants to slow it down.

"It's a good time for America because we finally have a president who wants to get things done in the right way," said Garamendi.

In the other corner, Harmer wants to combat a trend he has seen in education -- "the rise of centralization and the fall of everything else."


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.