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Archive for 2009



Swap Meet: Keeley Blows Whistle on Parsky

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

keeleytestifyingYou may recall the much vaunted, blue ribbon, bi-partisan panel called the Commission on the 21st Century Economy, that Gov. Schwarzmuscle and the Legislature appointed to study California’s tax structure and propose ways to modernize and stabilize the system.

Under the leadership of Schwarzpal Gerald Parsky, the commission was supposed to be transparent, above-board and dedicated to truth, justice and the American way.

Sacramento shocker: That turned out to be a load of crap. Instead of delivering on any of its promises, the commission got itself entangled in a goofy proposal for a business net receipts tax – a quasi,  value-added levy meant to replace the sales tax.

Although an excellent cure for insomnia, the proposal was not only breathtakingly complex, but also had exactly zero political chance of ever being enacted. So we often wondered: where exactly did this idea originate?

The mystery was solved last Wednesday (while the Calbuzz Department of Tax Policy and Coupon Clipping was on a fact-finding mission to Puerto Vallarta), when Parsky and commission member Fred Keeley testified at the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Asked directly where the BNRT came from, Santa Cruz County Treasurer Keeley answered:

That decision was made by the chair, who apparently entered into a contract somehow with Ernst and Young to produce a fully-formed BNRT without any consultation with the commission and then present it and then suck all of the oxygen out of the room for any discussion.

As far as we can tell, no one on the commission was ever asked to approve the $185,400 paid to Ernst and Young to craft the proposal. It seems neither members of the commission nor the public even knew about Parsky’s secret and apparently unauthorized contract.

What a bloody waste of peoples’ time, energy and commitment. And, oh yeah, taxpayer’s money.

EmergDanger-Steep-Cliff-Sign-131129ency health warning: Those afflicted with Seasonal Affect Disorder are advised to avoid close readings of Dan Walters’ column through the holidays, in order to avoid risk of hurling themselves from the roofs of tall buildings.

In several recent scary columns, Walters has hammered away at the  dangers posed by the ever-increasing size of the fiscal nut California must meet for interest payments on its borrowing, noting that the annual cost for the vig on general obligation bonds alone now runs about $6 billion a year, or about the size of the current year deficit, conveniently enough.

On Friday, the Big Fella let fly with a real Old Testament-level jeremiad, which had Calbuzz reaching for the hemlock, until we gulped down another cup of spiked coffee:

So we’re squandering our limited debt capacity on nonessential things such as stem cell research and bullet trains while our existing infrastructure is crumbling, demand from an increasing population grows, politicians’ credibility is almost nil, and bankers deservedly treat us like a Third World country.

Ouch.

billwatkins

Teaming up with economist and sometime Calbuzzer Bill Watkins, Walters also triggered a mid-week Capitol kerfuffle when he reported on a new forecast by Watkins and his team at California Lutheran University that suggested scenarios whereby the state could default on its debt obligations.

That loud noise you heard next was the sound of Bill Lockyer’s head exploding. Within hours of Walters’ blog post, Treasurer Bill and outgoing Department of Finance chief Mike Genest both went nuts denying and denouncing  the very thought of a default.

Lockyer’s spokesman, Tom Dresslar, said in a statement that Watkins’ commentary “was nothing more than irresponsible fear-mongering with no basis in reality, only roots in ignorance.”

Dresslar noted that the state Constitution mandates that tax revenue go first to pay education expenses and second for debt repayment. All other expenses come after debt service.

“After paying lockyerfor education, the General Fund has tens of billions of dollars left to pay debt service,” Dresslar said. “Even at historically high levels, debt service does not come remotely close to needing all the funds left over after schools get paid.”

We’ll leave it to greater minds than ours to sort through the fiscal and constitutional issues embedded in the exchange, although we do admire the sang-froid and snark with which Watkins answered the caterwauling of California’s ranking financial gurus.

“There is also a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget by every June 30,” he said.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Anchorwoman gets the giggles as husband chops wife into teeny little pieces.

Fishwrap: Poll-pourri, Scofflaw Sarah, Prince’s Pay

Friday, December 18th, 2009

schnurhitherWhen our old friend Dan Schnur outlined results of the USC-LA Times poll last month, he made a special point of noting that Democrats are not all that happy that their only choice in the governor’s race is Attorney General Jerry Brown.

In a conference call about the poll, the ex-Pete Wilson mouthpiece and Republican strategist who now directs the Unruh Institute of Politics, said he knew this because the pollsters inserted the following question while they were still in the field after SF Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the race:

As you may have heard, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the race to become the Democratic candidate for governor on Friday, leaving former Governor Jerry Brown as the only major political figure seeking the Democratic nomination. Are you satisfied with Brown as the only major figure seeking the nomination or do you think it is important for Democratic voters to have additional choices in who to nominate to be the Democratic candidate for governor?

As Calbuzz noted at the time, this was a loaded, partisan question. Given the wording, we were surprised that about a third of Democratic primary voters said they were satisfied while only 65% said it’s important to have more choices. It was hard to believe that Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies – the prominent Democratic and Republican firms hired to do the survey – could have allowed such a dog-ass question.

But LMAO: Now comes PPIC’s new poll with this question – for all respondents:

In general, would you say you are satisfied or not satisfied with your choices of candidates in the primary election for governor next June?

And guess who’s the least satisfied? Schnur’s fellow Republicans.

Democrats: 38% satisfied and 41% not satisfied – 3% net not satisfied.
Republicans:  25% satisfied and 43% not satisfied – 18% net not satisfied.
Independents: 29% satisfied and 45% not satisfied – 16% net not satisfied.

You can’t always get what you waaaaaant . . .

And another thing: Just between us, Dan, what’s with the come hither promo photo? We’re just sayin’.

goingrouge

Next time you’ll get the buzz cut: Our Arthur Godfrey Memorial National Talent Scout Team went far afield for this week’s winner of the coveted Investigative Punditry award, which goes to Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune, for his piece telling the story of a local hairdresser who got royally screwed over by the loathsome Sarah Palin.

Rolly scored an interview with one Rhonda Halliday, proprietor of the widely-known Images Hair Studio and Day Spa, who got an early morning call from a friend helping out the purse holders in the entourage of Palin, who was breezing through SLC for a book signing.

Come at once, Halliday was told, Sarah needs her hair done, and pronto.

Dumping a scheduled trip to the dentist with her 3-year old, she hustled to the Monaco Hotel, where she parked her car with the valet, as instructed,  then ran up to work on the Great Woman’s tresses – after being told “Don’t talk to her unless she talks first.”

Then the Palin party left to get to the book signing at Costco on time. Halliday was the last one out of the room because she had to put her equipment away, then watched as they all drove off without anyone mentioning payment or a tip, which is common when the hairdresser travels to the client for the appointment.

When the valet attendant got her car, he said that would be $10. She said she was with the Palin party and assumed they would take care of parking. That was news to him, so she had to fork over the $10.

Hockey mom, indeed.

Speaking of the stupidity of Sarah Palin, thanks to Cenk Uygur for “The Irrefutable Stupidity of Sarah Palin,” where he pointed to Sled Dog Sarah’s recent interview with Bill O’Reilly in which the Big Fella asked her is she’s “smart enough” to be president and got this astonishing response:

I believe that I am because I have common sense and I have I believe the values that I think are reflective of so many other American values, and I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the um, the ah, a kind of spineless spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite, Ivy League education and, and a fat resume that is based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans are could be seeking something like that in a positive change in their leadership, I’m not saying that that has to be me.”

There were no injuries.

BTW:  If you don’t want to support Palin by purchasing her “Going Rogue: An American Life,” you could consider buying a copy of “Going Rouge: An American Nightmare” (did you catch that in the photo above?), the work of Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, editors at the progressive magazine The Nation.

matierandross

No wonder he’s unbearably conceited: Underscoring the Rolly Rule that all good columnists are first of all great reporters, the Chron’s joined-at-the-hip boys, Phil Matier and Andy Ross, rolled out some jaw-dropping factoids in their Monday piece that deserve a second look.

Seems that Gavin Newsom, erstwhile candidate for governor and current pouty mayor of San Francisco, would have taken a 30% pay cut had he succeeded in his misguided attempt to be elected California’s chief executive: Amazing but true, Prince Gavin makes $246,464 as Baghdad by the Bay’s Alcalde, compared to the $173,987 salary that Gov. Schwarzmuscle doesn’t take each year.

And his snout’s not alone in the trough, not by a long shot, according to M&R: S.F. District Attorney Kamala Harris, for example, faces a $76,212 slash in her $227,339 salary should she be elected attorney general. Lucky for the little people,  she takes a noblesse oblige view of things: “If I had gone into law to make money, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

kamalaharrisFortunately for Harris, she may not have to struggle to make ends meet on the AG’s pay, once her rivals get around to making Alexander Izaguirre a household name.

As reported  by the LAT’s Michael Finnegan, Izaguirre was among an unknown number of illegal immigrant felons that Harris’s office diverted into a much-ballyhooed jobs program as an alternative to prison;  while so enrolled he was busted on multiple felony charges in a vehicular assault case, in which 29-year old Amanda Kiefer was mugged by Izaguirre, then suffered a fractured skull after he jumped into the passenger seat of a car driven by an associate, who ran her down.

“If they’ve committed crimes and they’re not citizens, then why are they here,” Kiefer later told Finnegan. “Why haven’t they been deported?” Two questions we expect campaign consultants for the numerous foes of Let Them Cake Kamala are mulling with great interest.

Three Dot Lounge: Calbuzz welcomes to the blogosphere Bill Whalen, former Pete Wilson speech writer, who’s just launched Politi-Cal. Here’s hoping that Whalen, who hangs out at the Hoover Institution, where Wilson is also encamped, doesn’t turn sock puppet for Pedro protégé eMeg Whitman…046-510

Nice work by Josh Richman of the Coco Times  and Andrew McIntosh of the B-  for penetrating the mysteries of Steve Poizner’s personal wealth and sundry  political contributions…

Must read of the week: A terrific situationer on the state of state Republicans by Washpostman Michael Leahy, who used the controversial recall of GOP Assemblyman Anthony Adams as an entry point.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Sarah Palin meets Miss Teen South Carolina.

PPIC: Fear, Loathing and Crusty Beating eMeg

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

horseraceYou might expect the campaign obsessed hacks at Calbuzz to jump all over the governor’s horse race numbers in the new PPIC poll out today (this just in: eMeg Whitman is waxing her Republican opponents and Crusty the General Brown is besting her in the fall).

But then you would underestimate our humanity and our sweeping political world view.

The numbers that really jumped out and grabbed us by the throat – numbers that may well drive all politics in the coming year – are these: Half of all adult Californians and nearly six in 10 people with incomes under $40,000 are concerned that they or someone in their family will lose their job in the next year.

Although that’s an 8-point decline from January, it’s accompanied by a 6-point increase in the number of respondents who volunteered to pollsters that their family has already experienced job loss (11%, up from 5%).empty-pockets

Even worse,  65% — nearly 7 in 10 people – say they are concerned about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage. In Los Angeles, it’s 73%!

Who gives a damn about the governor’s race if you’re worried about paying the rent?

Or, as Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California put it: “Voters have more immediate concerns than who is going to be the next governor.”

The horse race: Then again, who cares about voters? We’re junkies.

First, the GOP contest, where six in 10 Republicans likely to vote either never heard of or have no opinion about former eBay CEO Meg Whitman – the leader of that race.

In fact, undecinjection2ided is the leader with 44% — followed by eMeg at 32%, former Congressman Tom Campbell at 12% and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner at 8%.

Good thing eMeg has spent something like $20 million*, because it’s gotten her favorable all the way up to 22%, compared to a 19% unfavorable rating. Sheesh. Not much better than Campbell’s poor-man’s 16-14% but a lot better than Poizner’s negative 9-18%.

An intriguing question: Voters tell PPIC they’d prefer a candidate to raise money from supporters (49%) rather than using their own money (39%) –- among Republicans it’s 55-38%. Might we witness a bit of cognitive dissonance between voters worried about paying the rent and candidates spending like $100 million of their own money to become governor? Ya think?

Check out this nifty chart:

Which do you view most positively? Party Ideology
A candidate using mostly … Likelies Dem Rep Ind Lib Mod Cons
…his or her own money
to pay for political campaigning? 39% 42 38 29 33 42 41
…money collected from supporters
to pay for political campaigning? 49% 46 55 50 56 45 50

Or, by the time the deal goes down, will voters actually care who paid for what?

jerrymegWho will vote? Calbuzz thinks the PPIC poll, solid as it may be, has a couple problems, most notably one that a public pollster can’t easily address:  the sample of likely voters in the survey is a) inferred from an undisclosed cluster of questions asked of respondents and b) reflects the official statewide distribution of registered voters, not the likely 2010 electorate which — in our view — will be about 60% age 50 and older.

So when we look at PPIC’s November match-up of Jerry Brown versus Meg Whitman — reported at 43-37% — we think it’s likely 2-to-5 percentage points too low for Brown and too high for Whitman. Those numbers seem to us to reflect a sample that’s too young – only 44% age 55 and older — and that gives Brown a 35% favorable and a 36% unfavorable. (Most other surveys we’ve seen are closer to the Field Poll, which had Crusty’s favorable at 44-29%.)

We asked PPIC for some crosstabs by age group and they gladly obliged us, including one that shows Brown beating Whitman 44-34% among likely voters age 55 and older – strengthening  our point.

BTW, the PPIC poll has Brown beating Campbell 46-34% and Poizner 47-31% among all likely voters. They were selected, we’re told, like this: “A respondent is defined as a likely voter based on certain combinations of factors, including citizenship status, voter registration, past voting, intention to vote, and different levels of education and political interest dependent on length of time at their current residence.” Hmm.

drain

What kind of experience matters? So who cares if the general election match-ups are a bit skewed against Crusty? Brown’s fundraising doesn’t depend on early polling at this point and neither does eMeg’s. The only people to whom it matters are Campbell and Poizner — and since Poizner has just committed to spend $15 million, he’s probably not that concerned either.

More interesting is the finding that, in choosing candidates for statewide office like governor or Senator, voters are evenly divided, at 43%, on whether they prefer candidates to have experience in elected office or experience running a business.

Democrats prefer experience in office 60-26% over experience running a business; Republicans, just the opposite, 61% prefer experience running a business and 27% prefer experience in office. Likewise, liberals and conservatives hold opposite views.

Independents — 17% of the likely voters in the survey — prefer experience in business 50-32%. But moderates — who comprise twice as big a chunk of the electorate — lean toward experience in office 44-39%.

The bottom line: All of which may ultimately prove of marginal interest if voters’ economic circumstances don’t improve by November. Slightly more than half the voters think their financial situation will get better in the coming year.

Good thing, because while 63% of those making $80,000 or more say their personal finances are excellent or good, 65% of those making $40,000-80,000 say their financial condition is only fair or poor. A staggering 85% of those making less than $40,000 say their financial situation is fair or poor.

Any candidate for high office not acutely aware of and attuned to how Californians feel about their financial and economic circumstances will clearly be seen as out of touch and irrelevant.

Six in 10 voters say the most important issue facing the people of California is jobs and/or the economy; Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is 27%, the Legislature’s is 17% and a staggering 75% of the people say the state is going in the wrong direction.

Looks like a “change” election is on the horizon. But what does that mean? Who will define it? Which candidate will personify change and which will be saddled with the status quo?

To find answers to these and life’s other persistent questions, don’t miss a single edition of Calbuzz.

*That’s a guess, of course. Officially, before her expensive radio campaign, eMeg had spent $6.2 million as of June 30.

Hump Day: Tom C, Tony V & eMeg’s eMails

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

tomtwirlWhen speculation began about Tom Campbell possibly switching from the governor’s race to the U.S. Senate contest, the instant conventional wisdom said such a move would help Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Stonehenge,  now tied with former HP CEO Carly Fiorina in Republican primary polls.

That idea rests on the notion – fueled by some knuckle-draggers on the right –that Hurricane Carly is a squishy, Silicon Valley moderate masquerading as a fiscal conservative. And, the argument goes, because former U.S. Rep. Campbell is also a Silicon Valley squish, he’d naturally draw votes from Carly, to the benefit of DeVore.

But wait! Facts intrude. Or at least, what we like to call potential facts, suggested by the recent Los Angeles Times/USC Poll in which DeVore and Fiorina were tied at 27% each.

As Calbuzz reported more than a month ago, DeVore voters favor Campbell over eMeg Whitman 42-35% in the governor’s race, with another 16% for Steve Poizner. More importantly in this context, voters who support Campbell in the governor’s race prefer DeVore over Fiorina in the Senate race by a whopping 42-24%.

carlychuckcollageThis means there’s some connection, in voters minds, between Campbell and DeVore; when we studied the crosstabs from the survey, we found it’s not gender, ideology, geography or age. What does seem to explain the connection is income – which makes some intuitive sense, as the two are the only poor boys in either race.

The poll found Whitman leading Campbell in the governor’s race 35-27% overall. But among downscale, gunrack Republicans – those with incomes under $50,000 who made up 37% of the sample – Campbell was beating Whitman 34-28%. That’s a huge swing.

And guess what? While DeVore and Fiorina were tied at 27% overall, among the trailer park Republican cohort, DeVore was leading Fiorina 34-17% — another massive shift.

So what’s up here? Lower-income Republicans (and for Campbell, the over-65 voters, too) seem to cluster around Campbell and DeVore. Which could well mean that if Campbell got into the Senate race, it could actually boost Fiorina’s share of the vote.

Here’s what Calbuzz believes: While Campbell would have a hell of a time winning the GOP nomination for Senate, he would be the most formidable opponent against Sen. Barbara Boxer in a general election because he’s pro-choice and a moderate on the environment, issues that would help him with independents in the general election.

antonionewyorker

Being 80 is the new black: Speaking of the Senate, the flat-out silliest political story in months was to be found on the home post of Huffpost in recent days. Headlined “Antonio Villaraigosa may call the U.S. Senate ‘home’ in 2012,” the piece predicted the L.A. mayor will be an all-but-certain bet to take over Dianne Feinstein’s seat two years hence.

It’s an abiding mystery why Huffpost editors thought this a worthy page one candidate (though we expect Arianna’s recent big push for her L.A. page provides a big clue) given the goofiness of the column, written by some guy named Feldman, a self-described “journalist and media consultant” whose current job appears to be doing “investigative reporting” for AM radio.

Under the Feldman Scenario, Villaraigosa’s march of triumph to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body will be enabled by Difi either a) deciding to run for governor or b) choosing not to seek another Senate term because she’s just too damn old. As hard evidence for either option, Feldman cites the undeniable fact that…well, he really, really believes it might happen.

It is…probably foolish to make this next political prediction — and, if it turns out wrong — someone, somewhere, someday will no doubt cite it as yet another example of why such tea leaf reading is a dangerous art, indeed.

“Probably”? “Someday”? “Indeed,” indeed. At least he got the “foolish” part right.

diannePutting aside the fact that Tony V’s erratic performance as mayor better qualifies him as a used car salesman than a U.S. Senator, the notion that Feinstein will run for governor is sooo 2008 , and the idea that she’d give up her hard-earned sweet gig in D.C. if she was 112, fercrineoutloud,  ignores the fact that she’s been immersed in politics and government since 1956. She wouldn’t know what to do if she retired, except drive Dick Blum crazy by nagging him to prune the hedges or something.

In point of fact, Feinstein is already raising money for her 2012 race, and Calbuzz makes her a good bet to challenge Robert Byrd and the late Strom Thurmond in the oldest-coot-ever-to-serve-in-the-Senate sweepstakes.

“She’s not going anywhere,” one associate told Calbuzz, “and if Antonio runs against her, she’ll beat him like a drum.”

emegebay

Update from Delaware: All good Calbuzzers recall that we’ve noted the significance to eMeg Whitman’s candidacy of the big eBay vs. Craigslist civil suit smackdown now taking place in Delaware.

Absent a political record, Whitman has pointed to her experience as eBay’s CEO as the primary rationale for her candidacy for governor, so the trial offers some insider perspective about her values and performance in that role.

The case focuses on a dispute that followed eBay’s acquisition of 28 percent of Craiglist, at a time when Whitman was CEO of the online auction giant. eBay alleges that Craigslist violated terms of the agreement to deny them any say; Craiglist executives charge that eBay and Whitman used the agreement to obtain confidential information in order to set up a new online classified operation as a competitor.

On Tuesday, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster testified about an email exchange between eMeg and eBay executive Garrett Price that followed an interview Buckmaster gave to business reporter Matthew Boyle of Fortune; in response to a question about possible conflicts between the two companies, Buckmaster told Boyle, “our first instinct is to trust eBay to take the high road.”

Price emailed a copy to Whitman, asking if she had seen the piece:

Whitman: “Did. Pretty funny.”
Price: “Yes. I am glad to read that he trusts us.”
Whitman: “Love this.  :)

Referencing the email string, Craigslist’s attorney asked Buckmaster, “Did you think it was ‘pretty funny’ that you trusted eBay?”

“No,” Buckmaster replied sadly.

Following our earlier kvetching about a dearth of trial coverage, we’ve been pleased with the sudden stream of stories and commentaries that appeared this week (Coincidence? You be the judge).

Topping the list is our friend Jackson West, who reported over at NBC Bay Area about Monday’s appearance by Buckmaster,  who testified that Price at one point threatened him with being confronted by “Evil Meg” unless he went along with her designs on his company. As Randall Chase, the AP’s man in Delaware reported the Buckmaster testimony:

jim-buckmasterPrice said he needed to remind Craigslist officials that there were “two Meg Whitmans,” Buckmaster said

Craigslist officials, he was told, had met the “good” Whitman in July 2004, when she convinced Buckmaster, who had broken off discussions and decided not to do business with eBay, to go forward with negotiations that eventually resulted in eBay’s 28 percent minority stake in the online classifieds company.

Buckmaster said Price warned him that there also was an “evil Meg, and that we would best be served if we got with the program, or we’re going to meet the evil Meg.” Price added that Whitman, who is now seeking the Republican nomination for governor in California, could be a “monster” if she got frustrated, according to Buckmaster.

(Yikes! Memo to scheduling: should we rethink this whole eMeg dinner thing?)

The wily West got off the best line in the face of the emerging, unflattering portrait of eMeg, noting that “revelations about Whitman will actually play pretty well to the Republican Party base she’s courting in the gubernatorial primary.”

Money Down: What Poizner’s Cash Play Means

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

poiznergoldWe’re not sure what possessed Steve Poizner to put on his web site a digital running total that publicly tracks his ballyhooed effort to raise $50K in December – without having at least two-thirds of the amount committed and ready to post, to feed the perception of momentum.

Whatever it was, however, we’re pretty sure it was just about the worst idea since the Edsel.

One look at Poizner’s version of the Jerry’s Kids telethon thermometer Monday – when it stood at a pathetically droopy $12,885 – - is all you need to know about why The Commish suddenly announced he would go to the wallet for $15 million of his own fortune to sustain his lagging campaign for governor.

“He didn’t have any other option,” said one Republican insider. “There were rumors all over Sacramento that he was going to drop out.”

Poizner’s $15 million move will likely stop the bleeding among the gossip-mongering cognoscenti (which he’s done for the moment, at least to judge by campaign flack Jarrod Agen’s success in getting the entire press corps to write exactly the same story Monday). It also may calm some of his current supporters, whose restiveness in the face of his failure to move the needle in the polls seems to have led to the we-got-her-right-where-we-want-her memo his campaign e-blasted last week, which smacked of desperation.

Having made his move, Poiznergreendollar now faces two other, far more difficult tasks: a) actually writing the check he’s promised (we’ll be watching) and b) figuring out how to spend the dough wisely. We’re also not convinced that $15 million is enough to make the kind of splash – positive, negative or both – he needs.

As we noted last week in our six-months-out-from-the-primary analysis, which said flatly that Poizner needed to fork out some serious cash soon, Whitman’s scorched earth strategy of spending Whatever It Takes means it’ll cost Single Digits Steve big bucks just to get even with the name ID she’s already bought, let alone cruise by her.

With Her Megness trouncing The Commish in early opinion surveys, his campaign will surely be tempted to go negative on her out of the box, in an effort to stop her momentum.

This would be an unforced error, in our view, since the only people in California who have any idea who he is right now are the disheveled hordes who read Calbuzz, and he doesn’t want the first thing they learn about him to be that he beats up girls; beyond that, eMeg’s low-profile but expensive radio campaign has laid down a pretty good ground cover defense against a sudden air attack.

On the other hand, putting a couple million bucks behind positive spots, based on his recent “Back from the Brink” bio web ad (slight digression: Who thought that was a swell title? Not a few political junkies assumed he was talking about his campaign, not the state of California) is the safe and conventional play, but it remains to be seen whether the centerpiece of Poizner’s campaign, his ”bold” 10-10-10 budget proposal, has enough juice to give him some movement.

tomtwirl

Certainly, the specificity of his tax cut plan gives him one potentially sharp contrast with eMeg, who has said the state’s current tax structure doesn’t need remaking. He’s also likely to compare her broad brush plan to can 40,000 state employees unfavorably with his more detailed proposed for a 10 percent spending cut.

One potential game changer in the GOP race, of course, would be Tom Campbell abandoning his bid for governor to jump into the Republican primary race for Senate.

Campbell spokesman James Fisfis confirmed to Chris Cillizza of the WashPost that Tom Terrific has been approached to make the switch. It makes sense in a lot of ways: Campbell by nature is more of the legislative than executive type and, even though he’d still face an uphill battle raising money against Carly Fiorina, it would be an easier slog than trying to make his way in the Daddy/Mommy Warbucks primary against eMeg and The Commish.

We talked to Campbell about the rumors Monday and, for the first time in his life, he was tight lipped:

“I am in the race for governor. I have nothing to add to that.”

Try as we might to twist ourselves into contortions to get more out of him – i.e. “When you return from your holiday vacation (he and his wife are headed to Panama to study intensive Spanish – honest, you could look it up) will you still be a candidate for governor?

“I am in the race for governor, and I’m not really going to add to that.”

Which smells suspiciously like he’s seriously looking at it. If he goes, about one-quarter of the GOP vote, which is where he’s been polling, is suddenly up for grabs.

On the natural, that would seem to benefit Poizner, just because he would gain from anything that shakes up the race, and he comes closer to Campbell’s egghead appeal. But as Poizner tacks hard right, Campbell’s politics are closer to Whitman’s, so she’d likely at least a split his vote.

For months, Poizner has been trashing Whitman for spending millions of her own money on the race, charging that she thinks the election “is an eBay auction.” Now, he’s finally made his own bid, and the key question is, will it prove too little, too late.