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Calbuzz: The Next Generation – Plus Some Classics

Friday, November 26th, 2010

A world leader in innovative management techniques, team-based new product strategies and future-focused organizational learning, Calbuzz Corporate is all about best practices business operations.

Consistent with that philosophy, our Department of Succession Planning and Forced Geezer Retirements today introduces Braeden Max Vegter (left) Benson Parker James Guron (below), executive vice-presidents in training and the most recently born key players in our Calbuzz 2050 Plan.

As we hunker down at our annual corporate retreat for some intensive staff mentoring and coaching, here’s a holiday offering of a couple of Calbuzz Classics, some prescient posts from one year ago that forecast outcomes for some of the biggest political stories of 2010:

Why iCarly Lost the Senate Race: On November 27, 2009 we took an early look at Carly Fiorina’s GOP bid for Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat, and took note of what would become a chronic problem for her – hoof in mouth disease. We also reported a major bonehead play that ranked right up there with Meg Whitman’s refusal to accept our invitation to dinner and doomed the Fiorina candidacy from the start:

“Two old white guys left standing at the altar: So Carly Fiorina was scheduled to call Calbuzz for an interview Monday, but her handlers stiffed us at the last minute with a murky explanation about some supposedly late-breaking, double secret probation type emergency development thingie.

We were pleased to see, however, that iCarly was not so in distress that she bypassed a Beltway breakfast session with the crew of the conservative American Spectator.  Philip Klein’s post on the affair is well worth reading, if only for the challenge of trying to follow the rococo twists and turns of her extended riff on abortion rights.

On other issues, primary foe Chuck DeVore, R-Sirloin, jumped all over her statement that she would have voted for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, while Mrs. Chuck tweeted exception to Fiorina’s comment that she’s a stronger GOP bet by virtue of not being “a white male.”

Asked why she is a better candidate than her Republican primary opponent Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Calif.), Fiorina said that a woman stands a better chance of defeating Boxer.

“With all due respect and deep affection for white men – I’m married to one – but (Barbara Boxer) knows how to beat them. She’s done it over and over and over again.” Uh, really?

Among those who might take offense at her comment are:

1-The entire base of the California Republican Party.
2-Michelle Malkin, shrill harridan of the GOP’s Glenn Beck wing, who bashed
her
for an “identity-politics driven campaign.”
3- Matt Fong, the former state controller who lost to Boxer in 1998 and is decidedly not a white male.

To summarize: Hurricane Carly would have been better off calling us.”

Murphy enters the fray: On November 24, 2009, Calbuzz scooped the world by being the first to report that Big Foot Republican consultant Mike Murphy was joining the already crowded ranks of operatives in the Legions of eMeg:

“Mike Murphy, the blunt-spoken, sharp-tongued, smart aleck Republican strategist who has advised such clients as John McCain, Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is joining Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, two reliable sources told Calbuzz.

Whitman, who has already spent more than $20 milllion, decided to shake up her campaign on  Friday, Nov. 13, one source told us, and add  another layer to her consultant-rich organization.”

BTW: There’s a rumor afoot that Murph won’t be showing up to participate in the quadrennial deconstruction of the governor and senate races sponsored at Berkeley by the Institute of Governmental Studies, this time Jan. 21-22, 2011.

This event is a junkie’s delight, as top campaign operatives and pollsters shed light on how the campaigns looked from the inside.  Murphy’s non-appearance is just a rumor, at this point, as Ethan Rarick, the point man at IGS, says he can neither confirm or deny the buzz. Calbuzz strongly urges Murphy to NOT be the first major consultant to duck the important retrospective.

What it all meant: A day later, we examined what the hiring of Murphy was likely to mean strategically to Her Megness, taking a look at both the risks and opportunities of the big move. Things played out pretty much as we foresaw with one key exception: it appears that in the inside game, Murphy never gained the upper hand over longtime Whitman sycophant Henry Gomez, whose clout with the candidate, coupled with his utter ineptitude, likely spelled failure for the obscenely expensive campaign from the start:

“Despite their partisan differences, count Democratic consultant Garry South, the party’s Duke of Darkness, as one of Republican strategist Mike Murphy’s fans: ‘He’s a great guy – one of the funniest and smartest people I know in politics. He brings a centrist perspective that befits the political climate in California pretty well.’

But South – who was S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s consultant in the governor’s race until the Prince dropped out last month – also warned that by bringing Murphy into her campaign, Meg Whitman runs the risk that afflicts most wealthy candidates in California (viz: Simon, Bill and Checchi, Al).

‘Having more consultants doesn’t necessarily mean a better campaign,” he added. “They put together these big campaigns but they don’t know who to listen to and there’s sometimes warring camps that take hold inside and give the candidates conflicting advice.’

As word spread, in the wake of our Tuesday post, that Whitman had brought Murphy into her campaign, insiders saw both opportunities and risks in the move, balancing the high-profile consultant’s talent for messaging and strategy against his take-no-prisoners style, which can be aimed both at his candidate’s rival – as well as his own rivals within the c

One Republican strategist who has worked with Murphy described his greatest value to Whitman this way: ‘He’s somebody with actual political experience and the stature to push back on the candidate and her non-political advisers when it’s necessary.’

While it appears that Whitman crony Henry Gomez, her former eBay colleague and closest adviser, was the one who reached out to Murphy, his presence in the campaign will also assure that ‘When Henry has an idea that’s dumb, there’s someone who can call him on it,’ the source said.

Like many business executives, Whitman has a low regard for political professionals, several sources said;  for this reason, she needs a strategist who is not intimidated by her, “someone who can get into her face and say ‘This is what we have to do,’” as one operative put it…

Murphy has a reputation for being disorganized, disheveled and sometimes difficult to get engaged. ‘“Organization is not his forte,’ said a former GOP colleague…

Murphy is said to have been genuinely impressed with Whitman’s leadership skills and – no doubt – her ability to pay whatever fee he’ll be charging for his strategic and message advice. ‘Fortunately, this is the type of campaign that has the luxury to keep adding talent,’ said one operative.”

Now that’s the understatement of 2009.

GOP Fail: Meyer, Oprah and Voter Orgasms in Spain

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

In a week when the flimsy line between politics and entertainment grew teenier than ever, Calbuzz cartoonist Tom Meyer offers some sage strategic advice to California Republicans, who are desperate to gain support among women and Latinos – two crucial groups whose strong Democratic ties help explain why the Golden State grew bluer than ever in the year of the GOP’s red tide.

While Oprah has been broadcast in Spanish for more than two years now,  the big brains running the California Republican Party apparently haven’t gotten the memo, as GOP state chairman Ron Nehring blames his party’s pathetic statewide showing on a failure of “communications” in “brand” marketing.

“The leadership is brain-dead,” countered longtime Republican operative Tony Quinn, in a somewhat more succinct analysis offered to the Sacbee’s ubiquitous Jack Chang. “The demographic problem is Republicans have become a party of old white people, and these are people who really want an idealistic view such as what they think existed in California 50 years ago.”

Despite Neanderthal Nehring’s argument that the state GOP just needs to do a better job of advertising the popularity of their ideas among the Fred Flinstone cohort, the latest data from the L.A, Times/USC poll (see here here and here ) strongly suggests otherwise, as the always-worth-reading Cathleen Decker reported: “The party faces a critical collision between its own voters, a minority in California, and those it needs to attract to win.”

So in grateful return for that non-stop flood of “ICYMI” memos the state GOP sent our way in 2010, here’s a Calbuzz version backatcha.


Fun with numbers: In prize-winning fashion, Jerry Brown never tired of reminding voters that Meg Whitman’s not-very-original definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

But you gotta’ hand to Her Megness for persistence: she never let her own clichés stand in the way of her crazed and delusional determination that she could be elected governor if she just kept tossing good money after bad; our gal pitched a last-gasp $2.6 million of pin money into her campaign on election day, bringing the personal megabucks investment in her one-for-the-history books Really Big Fail to $144,155,806.11.

Putting aside the $30 million or so in chump change she raised from fellow plutocrats, that works out to an average of $228,460.86 per day — $9,519.20 per hour, $158.60 per minute and $2.64 per second – 24/7, each and every one of the 631 days she was in the race. (The final final numbers, still not available, will make for some really impressive gee whiz computations.)

If that seems a bit…excessive…consider this: as a political matter, the net effect of the money was to win Whitman 41% of the statewide vote total; that’s only 10% above the Republican 31% share of statewide registration – or $14 million per percentage point above the base vote she would have won if she hadn’t spent a penny.

For comparison’s sake, the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner, none of whom had bupkus to spend, averaged 37% of the statewide vote, meaning all of eMeg’s loot basically  bought her an extra 4% of the vote – or $35 million per percentage point.

Oh well. From what we hear, at least the checks cleared for all of the brilliant strategists and consultants who fleeced her rode the gravy train while it lasted. God, we miss her already.

For those keeping score at home: When she writes her next self-serving memoir – “The Power of Money”? – at least eMeg will have the satisfaction of letting readers know that, despite shattering all records for most dollars spent on a political race in the U.S. ,the $57 per vote she forked out was peanuts compared to the $97 that World Wrestling Entertainment crotch kicker CEO Linda McMahon lavished on each Nutmegger who cast a ballot for her losing Republican bid for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut.

And as long as we’re talking mondo money, it’s worth noting that the biggest single spender on the initiative side of the ballot wasn’t the CTA, the CCPOA or the California Chamber of Commerce; as Tracey Kaplan reports in a nice Murky News piece, that honor goes to Charles T. Munger, Jr., a Stanford physics geek who tossed $12.6 million of his own fortune into Proposition 20, the measure taking away from the legislature the power to draw new lines for congressional seats and giving it to an independent reapportionment commission.

“You need to go into the world and do something that’s needed,” said Munger, 54. “So I gave California fair elections. I gave the voters back their democracy.”

Of course, the big difference between Munger and Whitman is that he, you know, won.

Memo to Ron Nehring (eyes only): Maybe this approach might work with women voters next time around.  Seems consistent with that whole “personal liberty” thing, anyway.