GOP Consultant Says Caitlyn Jenner Hasn't Made a Mark With California Voters

A Republican consultant said Caitlyn Jenner's bid to become California's governor has not made a mark with voters because she has not yet spoken publicly about what she would do if elected, the Associated Press reported.

Jenner, 71, is transgender and a former Olympic decathlon gold medalist who has been a Republican candidate for California's governor for five days. In a written statement online, she announced her plan to run in a likely recall election that could remove Governor Gavin Newsom.

"That will become the first impression, that she doesn't have anything to say," veteran Republican consultant Rob Stutzman told AP.

"People will move on and become dismissive," added Stutzman, who advised Arnold Schwarzenegger before the actor became California's governor in 2003.

"That first impression as a candidate is important, even if they are famous," he continued. "So far, I don't think she's made any impression."

On Monday, Jenner tweeted "formal announcement to come soon," about her campaign, which she has been promoting online.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Caitlyn Jenner hasn't made mark with voters
In her four days as a candidate for California governor, Caitlyn Jenner had a Twitter spat with a Democratic congressman, unveiled a website to sell campaign coffee mugs and swag, and was photographed with a startup business owner. In this January 18, 2020, file photo, Jenner speaks at the 4th Women's March in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

In her five days as a Republican candidate for California governor, Jenner had a Twitter spat with a Democratic congressman, unveiled a website to sell T-shirts and other campaign swag, and posted a photograph of herself with a startup business owner.

Jenner's written statement last week that she would run generated international publicity. But so far, the political newcomer's campaign exists in the virtual realm, a string of tweets and vaguely worded posts with no specifics.

Each day inevitably builds more expectation about her initial appearance, which would give many voters a first glimpse at the reality TV personality through a political lens.

There is a risk if the silence continues too long.

Still, she has Newsom's attention. His campaign sent out fundraising appeals hooked to Jenner's candidacy. "We're going to need help keeping up with Caitlyn's personal wealth and ability to raise money from right-wing donors," one said.

Jenner announced Friday that she would enter the race, posting a statement online saying she was joining the growing list of candidates seeking to oust Newsom before the end of his first term.

Jenner has sketched only a vague outline of what her agenda might look like: Cutting taxes. Repairing the economy. Providing a counterweight to California's Democratic-dominated politics.

The risks for a candidate emerging on the political stage can be seen in the 2008 presidential campaign, when Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who was then largely unknown, stumbled in interviews with then-CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. Her appearance went on to be widely parodied on late-night TV.

So far, Jenner's words have been few, though they can reach a large audience. She has nearly 11 million Instagram followers and 3.5 million followers on Twitter.

In a tweet exchange last weekend, Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) schooled Jenner in how district attorneys are elected, after she suggested in a tweet that they were appointed by Newsom. He also asked if she understood basic functions of government and sent her a link to a "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoon video on how bills become laws.

Jenner pushed back, calling his remarks "condescending." She said she knew district attorneys are elected, but "the buck stops with Newsom."

A candidate can use social media to start a campaign, "but you can't win it that way," Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney said.

To reach an electorate as large as California, she will need to do more traditional campaigning, including getting on TV.

"Other candidates are going to scoop up support. If she waits too long, there might not be many votes left on the table," Pitney added. "She's got to prove she ought to be taken seriously."

For now, Jenner's website is mostly a vehicle for soliciting donations and selling coffee mugs, wine glasses and other commemorative items for her campaign. There are no detailed policy positions.

She tweeted Monday that the recall election had been certified, which is not technically true. A preliminary count of petition signatures showed it had enough support to qualify for the ballot, but it will not be certified by the secretary of state until later.

Among other statements, she wrote on Twitter that "Banning fracking only increases our dependence on foreign oil," criticized Newsom for sending out fundraising appeals after her announcement, and described herself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. On Instagram, she can be seen holding up a campaign coffee mug, which sells for $25.

Other Republicans running to replace Newsom include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in a 2018 landslide, and former Congressman Doug Ose. Dozens of other candidates, serious and not, are expected to enter the race.

When Schwarzenegger ran, he surrounded himself with an impressive brain trust, including former Secretary of State George Schultz and billionaire Warren Buffett, to confer seriousness about his campaign. The team advising Jenner has included ex-President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, who also worked for Trump's campaign.

Schwarzenegger appeared Monday on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! He said he is good friends with Jenner and indicated he had advised her about running—"just about everyone that's thinking about running has called me," though he declined to discuss any specifics about Jenner.

He said anyone could win in a recall, given the unhappy mood among the public. But Schwarzenegger is not picking a favorite in the race and said he also is good friends with Newsom.

The California secretary of state's office said that more than 1.6 million recall signatures had been deemed valid, about 100,000 more than required to put the question to voters. People who signed petitions now have 30 days to withdraw their signatures, though it's unlikely enough will do so to stop the election.

In a recall election, voters would be asked two questions: First, should Newsom be recalled? The second question would include a list of replacement candidates to choose from, but the results would matter only if a majority of voters cast ballots to remove Newsom.

Caitlyn Jenner hasn't made mark with voters
A Republican consultant said Caitlyn Jenner's bid to become California's governor has not made a mark with voters because she has not yet spoken publicly about what she would do if elected. Above, Jenner attends the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party on February 9, 2020, in West Hollywood, California. AFP via Getty Images/Michael Tran