Two news items emerged yesterday to underscore some questions Calbuzz has puzzled over since last week’s revelations that Meg Whitman employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years, fired her unceremoniously and never lifted a finger to help her resettle or become a legal resident.
1) An Ipsos Public Affairs Poll for Reuters found that nine in 10 people know about the incident and it makes a net 13% of voters less likely to support the billionaire Republican candidate for governor and, 2) The total amount of lost wages and expenses that the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, is seeking to be paid is $6,210 – less than she pays her campaign manager every two weeks.
Here’s what we don’t get:
Why didn’t Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh IV, do something for Nicky? Why not spend $20,000 or so (or more, if need be) to hire her the best immigration attorney she could find to help her see what could be done to stay in the country or ease her return or whatever?
Why not offer her a year’s severance (about $18,000) or help her with re-settlement costs in Mexico? She was, in eMeg’s words, “a member of our extended family” (or as Meg said in one press conference, Freud never sleeping, “an extended member of our family”).
Okay, so Whitman and Harsh had to fire Diaz once they knew she was here illegally, if you buy their story. But they didn’t have to kick her to the curb. They might have avoided statements like this one from Nicky on Tuesday: “Meg, don’t say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was.”
They could have tried to help her, which would have the advantage of being the right thing to do, would have made everyone feel better about themselves and – not insignificantly – would have demonstrated a measure of decency and compassion when the whole incident became public. Which leads to our second question:
Why – if as Whitman said last week, she told her senior campaign advisers about the matter at the time — did she not disclose the whole thing publicly back in June or July of 2009?
Sure, she would have taken some guff from Steve Poizner and/or Tom Campbell, who were then challenging her for the GOP nomination. But everyone – everyone – would have understood how she could have wound up with an undocumented housekeeper.
That’s a common experience for many Californians of means and Whitman could have used herself as an example of how complicated the immigration issue is, and why we need a better system for employers to verify the status of people they hire (and make it believable).
Moreover, according to Political Consulting 101, this is standard operating procedure: control the bad news, put it out yourself, do it early to inoculate against a late hit. It borders on campaign consultant malpractice to have handled it as it was handled (unless, of course, Meg herself decided she would just keep the story a secret – ssshhh).
Whitman says she didn’t want to expose Nicky to the possibility of deportation. But had she actually done something to try to prevent that, or helped her in any way, she could have prevented the worst effects from what consultants always warn their clients: assume that everything that can come out will come out.
Calbuzz has tried to ask some of the consultants who were on Meg’s payroll back then – some for a quaint $25,000 a month – whether they knew about the housekeeper problem and what they advised. But nobody is returning our calls. We can’t figure out why.
Why did Whitman decide to attack Brown from a position of utter weakness at the Univision debate, where the audience was overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking?
It was loopy enough that Whitman kept trying to get out ahead of Nicky’s attorney, the bombastic Gloria Allred, and kept getting blindsided by Allred’s disclosures. Everything was a smear and a lie and absolutely, 100% false. Until it turned out that it wasn’t. And Meg’s nose grew a little more.
All that aside, to turn to Brown on the stage in Fresno and wag a finger and charge him with sacrificing Nicky on the altar of his political ambition (such a line, you wouldn’t believe!) – what the hell was that?
Whitman knows Brown had nothing to do with Nicky’s hiring or firing and that there’s no evidence to support the charge that he had anything to do with the disclosure of her hiring and firing (if Brown had something he wanted to get out, the unpredictable loose cannon Allred would be right there at the waay bottom of his list of candidates).
But she made the aggressive debate charge as if she had some clear and compelling evidence that Brown had engaged in dirty tricks (spreading vicious truths?) when in fact she had bupkus.
So she very effectively led with her chin and Brown very effectively clocked her. Can’t stand on her own two feet, won’t take responsibility, no accountability, won’t crack down on herself. Brown could riff all day on this right-in-his-wheelhouse stuff.
How big is the impact of all this on Whitman’s campaign? Big. Already we’ve heard quantitative and qualitative reports about the bottom dropping out of Whitman’s support among Latinos. But it appears the effect may be wider.
The Ipsos survey, first reliable public poll to report findings regarding eMeg’s problem, in which Brown leads Whitman 50-43%, found that while about nine in 10 voters have heard about the story (and 9/10 of anything is huge in polling), 72% said it would make no difference in how they will vote.
But here’s the kicker: a net 13% of voters, including 11% of independents, said the incident would make them less likely to vote for Whitman. That’s one in 10 independents who are less likely to vote for Whitman because of this one incident.
The survey, conducted Oct. 2-4, included 448 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points.
If anything, we think, it understates the impact of the affair, although the Whitman campaign argues otherwise in a polling memo sent out to news media contending:
The race is still “too-close to-call.” Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie among all the voters surveyed, with 43 percent for Brown and 41 percent for Whitman. The race is tied 30%-30% among the sub-set of voters who say they “strongly” support their choice and are unlikely to switch. Among the 85 percent of the sample we consider most likely to vote (based on past voting history, intensity of opinion, and demographic profile), the race is a dead heat at 44%-44%.
Brown continues to lead in the North and Whitman in the South. Whitman’s share of the Hispanic or Latino vote is still significant at 30 percent, compared to Brown’s 45 percent.
Whitman seems to have weathered the Gloria Allred attack, owing in no small measure to Allred’s negative image. Only 24 percent of California voters hold a favorable impression of Allred, while 68 percent have an unfavorable impression of her. By comparison. Brown and Whitman are seen in a better light. Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio is 51%-41% and Whitman’s is 44%-44%.
Putting aside the question of why they’re putting out a poll that shows their candidate losing, inquiring minds want to know: Is it remotely possible that 92% of voters have an opinion about Gloria Allred? Really?
We can’t wait for the data showing how she matches up one-on-one with Meg.