SAN DIEGO — You know you’re struggling to craft a strong political message when your top convention speaker is a guy running for secretary of state who shows up wearing a hard hat, demonstrates merely average rhetorical skills and lifts his best line from a 34-year old movie.
As the state Republican convention ended Sunday, the best news for the GOP was that almost nothing happened, at least nothing that might be of the slightest interest to what you call your Real People.
For the political junkie crowd, however, there was no shortage of spectator entertainment. Here are the Top 10 events of a Lost Weekend in San Diego.
10-Calbuzz gets carded: The convention’s biggest surprise came when a thickly muscled bouncer demanded that your Calbuzz correspondents (combined age: 122) produce I.D. to gain admittance to some second-rate pizza-joint-with-a-full-bar in the Gaslamp Quarter which they stumbled upon in the pre-dawn hours. The move by Thor (not his real name) reflected not only his apparent legal blindness, but also some CYA concerns he clearly felt in noting we were two decades younger than the average GOP convention worthy swarming the streets.
9-The CRA deems Meg a squish: The closest thing to a conflict, let alone drama, was the right-wing California Republican Assembly’s unauthorized, opening day press conference assailing Meg Whitman for her softening views on immigration and climate change. The CRA’s unhappiness was manifest in a proposed resolution urging the party to formally endorse Arizona’s immigration law, which eMeg opposes; party chair Ron Nehring, with a major assist from state Senator Tony Strickland, worked behind the scenes to ensure the proposal didn’t see the light of day.
8-Carly tap dances on immigration. Though the right-wing faithful are well pleased with Senate nominee Carly Fiorina, at least in contrast to wanna guv eMeg, the CRA’s resolution also put the Hurricane on the spot, at a time when she is ever-so-quietly trying to shift to the political center on several issues. Closely questioned by Calbuzz at her Saturday post-speech press conference about the wisdom of the state GOP going on record in the matter, Carly put on a fabulous display of bobbing and weaving before allowing that the proposal was “appropriate.”
7-Mom loves me more than you. Strickland, the party’s nominee for controller, and secretary of state hopeful Damon Dunn battled during their Friday night speeches to see who could suck up to Meg more. Dunn (who arrived at the podium wearing a white hard hat– see above — for a sight gag that flopped) briefly interrupted the angry tone of his speech (“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” he kept repeating, quoting the 1976 film “Network”) to gush that “Meg Whitman won my heart,” while Strickland batted goo-goo eyes at her while declaring with terminal earnestness that he’s proud to be “part of what I call ‘Team Whitman.’” Yuck.
6-Strangers in the night. After-hours party sources told Calbuzz it was no accident that eMeg and iCarly never crossed paths at the convention, because Whitman, having made generous contributions to the GOP, made clear that’s how she wanted it. eMeg no doubt has marginal concerns that Carly’s hard line on issues like abortion, gun control and offshore oil might reflect harmfully on her own mad dash to the center, but the bottom line is simply this: as a political performer, Fiorina is three times the candidate Meg is, and her sharp, punchy and engaging presentation style casts a big shadow on Whitman’s awkward plodding.
5-San Francisco Democrats. As we noted right after the primary, Republicans got a political gift when Democrats nominated a ticket of constitutional nominees heavily tilted to Bay Area liberals. Lite Gov. Abel Maldonado put the Gavin Newsom piece of the package together all weekend, including this must-see video he showed the delegates during his Saturday night speech.
4-Dutch treat. As reporters milled around the press pen early Friday evening, our Assistant Deputy Managing Editor for Cultural Sensitivity and Linguistic Ethnic Profiling got an emergency summons to smooth over a potentially volatile situation, when ace SacBee blogger Torey Van Oot challenged the blatant inaccuracy of “The Tulip,” the nickname Calbuzz gave her in our convention advance. “I’m not Dutch,” she archly informed us, leading management to issue a formal apology, along with a copy desk memo announcing that her new nickname is “Don’t Call Me Dutch.”
3-Cooley’s debut. We got our first extended look at GOP Attorney General nominee Steve Cooley, the L.A. district attorney, and he did a boffo job of ripping the mask off rival Kamala Harris, the other San Francisco liberal on the Democratic ticket. With his hangdog, baggy suit, old-school style, Cooley is every inch the career prosecutor, and his authentic outrage was palpable over Harris’s handling of the Edwin Ramos triple murder case and her failure to seek the death penalty in the killing of police officer Isaac Espinoza; when Calbuzz asked him after his speech why he didn’t even mention San Francisco’s drug lab scandal, which Harris also stands in the middle of, he replied, “I only had a certain amount of time.”
2-Meg’s secret message to Goldman Sachs. We’re still trying to parse out precisely what eMeg meant when she dropped this code word thought balloon into the middle of her speech on Friday night: “Do you know who’s as excited about this election as we are? The people of New York. They have suffered the financial reforms that are going to crimp our ability to raise capital and they want California to turn the corner.”
Whether she was complaining that poor Goldman Sachs is suffering unduly under new federal financial regulations, or suggesting that Wall Street types would joyously celebrate the election of a like-minded $oul, you can safely bet that Jerry Brown will use the quote to help paint her as the darling of investment bankers everywhere.
1-The Dr. Hackenflack Dinner: Once again, all right-thinking people agreed, the unquestioned highlight of the convention was the Dr. P.J. Hackenflack dinner, which brought a top-drawer collection of players together at Osetra. Amid fun, frivolity and a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, the group cast secret written ballots for the candidates they think, as of today, will win (not who they prefer). The results:
Governor: Brown 12, Whitman 5
Senator: Boxer 10, Fiorina 7
The not-so-random voter sample included: Republican operatives (5); MSM reporters (5); Bloggers (3); Civilians (3); Recovering journalist (1). A sixth MSM reporter refused to cast a ballot (don’t ask), making turnout 94%.
Consumer Advisory: This is heir to the same group that a dozen years ago voted conclusively that Al Checchi would win the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998.