Here’s what won’t happen this weekend at the California Republican Party State Convention in San Diego:
Meg Whitman won’t speak Saturday morning when the Resolutions Committee takes up the proposal from Celeste Grieg, president of the knuckle-dragging California Republican Assembly, backing Arizona’s law empowering police to ask suspected illegal immigrants for their papers.
And since the GOP already endorsed Prop. 23 – the measure to suppress California’s pioneering climate-change law – and since eMeg says she’ll probably vote against it, she’s not likely to speak much about that Friday night when she tosses red meat to the delegates at dinner.
These are a couple of the not-bloody-likely situations Whitman will be at pains to avoid when she breezes in and out of San Diego, spending just enough time to toss off her talking points and rip into Jerry Brown (Will she meet with reporters? We don’t know yet) before booking town.
Usually, when a candidate for statewide office prepares to speak to a Republican convention, political writers and pundits blather on about how the candidate’s challenge is to “energize the base, drum up enthusiasm and rally the troops.” Your faithful Calbuzzers once dished just this kind of hackneyed drivel.
Not this time. Looking at eMeg’s challenge facing the GOP conventioneers in San Diego this weekend we see just one basic goal: get in and out of town without getting tarred and feathered, burned in effigy or booed or heckled, although the latter might be tactically clever (see below).
Of course, she could probably make all her troubles go away by just doling out another $255,860 to various Republican organizations, including the CRP itself ($239,750). Amazing what a little walking around money will do to buy some love. And it’s not as if she needs the GOP for much: she’s paying for everything herself and running a media carpet-bombing campaign, not a grassroots insurgency.
But in the absence of buying off noisy critics, it’s hard to see what Whitman can get out of the convention. As one savvy Republican told us, “There’s nothing she can do this weekend to motivate the base that doesn’t give her a problem with swing voters.”
Although getting booed by telling right-wingers what was wrong with Prop. 187 or why she won’t vote for Prop. 23 or can’t support Arizona’s SB 1070 would be a nice touch, reminiscent of Dianne Feinstein in 1990 when she got booed by the Democratic Party convention for supporting the death penalty.
“I suspect her campaign wants to create the appearance of GOP unity. But with her missteps on illegal immigration and with (Steve) Poizner and (Tom) McClintock still holdouts, the story is likely to be the opposite, with emphasis on discord between her and GOP base on the immigration issue,” said one Republican strategist. “She would’ve been better off citing another scheduling conflict and avoid it and send a surrogate.”
Except for delivering a screed against Brown, repeating her three-part mantra (jobs, education, budget cuts) and issuing a stirring call for Republican unity, anything Whitman can get from a gathering of hard-right GOP activists will hurt her among independents and Latinos in the general electorate.
But as one Meg insider put it, “We’re not looking to be the belle of the GOP ball.”
Of course, if she has decided to forget about the Latino vote, she could endorse the CRA resolution on Arizona’s “papers please” law. As Greig said in her letter to fellow Republicans:
Is the Republican Party for the Rule of Law? Pass my resolution and it will show it does. Kill it in committee or on the floor and the Republican Party will look no different that the Democrat (sic) Party. That will harm all of our candidates, the media will say if it fails, that the CRP can not be counted on by those that want to stop the illegal alien population growth in California, that we are in fact, siding with the illegal aliens.
Or she can come out for Prop. 23 (which Senate candidate Carly Fiorina declined to do on Tuesday) and dig herself into a bigger hole with independent voters than she’s already in. Or she can switch her support for abortion rights to align herself with her party’s anti-choice position. Or come out for more offshore oil drilling.
Don’t hold your breath. Meg’s people figure it this way: Republicans will vote for Whitman because she’s not Jerry Brown and if the convention cave people pelt her with pebbles, that’ll make her look more reasonable to independents and moderates.
The most curious intrigue seems to be around internal Republican Party politics.
According to Mike Spence, former president of the arch-conservative CRA, Meg’s people have been organizing proxies for the convention, but to what end is anyone’s guess. Maybe she plans to quash anything controversial in committee or on the floor. Spence asks:
Does the Whitman campaign want headlines from political reporters about how her proxies were used to beat up conservatives? Or headlines favoring conservatives over moderates? . . . Would reporters and maybe John and Ken wonder if Whitman’s proxies were used to kill the [CRA Arizona law] resolution? Or did she use them to let it pass?
Or could it be that Meg’s not crazy about seeing the GOP move toward a caucus system for picking presidential candidates, or whatever rules are being cooked up for party caucuses to pick an official GOP candidate in advance of open primaries, or some wing nut becoming chairman of the state party if she gets to be governor. Who knows? Who cares?
We know one thing: Meg and her staffers are bolting town before the most important event of the weekend – the invitation-only Calbuzz Dr. Hackenflack Dinner.