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PPIC: Xerxes of Kashkari Down 21 Points to Gandalf

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

xerxesHere’s Republican Neel Kashkari’s fundamental problem in challenging Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown:  The governor’s ’s job approval rating is at 55% among likely voters compared to 42% two years ago. And while a slight majority of likely voters still say the state is going in the wrong direction, today, 43% say things in California are generally going in the right direction – up from 29% in September 2012.

These are data from the just-released survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which also finds Gov. Gandalf with a 21 point lead over Xerxes  – 54% to 33% — including 86% of Democrats, 45% of independents and even 19% (about two in 10!) of Republicans.

PPIC’s poll, taken Sept. 8-15, suggests an even wider margin for Brown than the Field Poll of Aug. 14-28, which found Brown with a 16 percentage point lead, 50-34%. Field also found Brown with a 58% job approval rating while 43% of likely voters said the state is moving in the right direction compared to 41% who said it is on the wrong track.

More importantly, Neel is no longer covering the spread against the Calbuzz Election Pool line: Brown -20, Kashkari +20.

jerrygandalfBettors Background For handicappers, we offer some historical data on the biggest whoopings in recent years: in 1998, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis beat Republican Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren 58-38%; in 2006, Republican movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger beat Democratic Treasurer Phil Angelides 56-39%; in 1994, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson beat Democratic Treasurer Kathleen Brown 56-41%; and in 2010, Atty. Gen. (and former Gov.) Jerry Brown beat Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman 54-41%.

Comes now a former Goldman Sachs and Troubled Assets Relief Program banker with absolutely no elective experience and none of Whitman’s billions, up against a man who has been Secretary of State, a two-term Governor, three-time presidential candidate and Mayor of Oakland with a job approval rating somewhere around 55% or 58%.

This is only a contest in Kashkari’s loopy overripe imagination. But we like his spirit and have urged him to make a friendly non-cash wager with Calbuzz about the statement he made in his convention speech Sunday: “I deeply believe we can win in November.” So far, no word from Xerxes, but we’re anxiously keeping an eye on his Twitter feed.

suntzuartofwarAs we’ve said before, Kashkari is arguing a case that voters simply don’t accept: that California is going to hell in a hand basket on jobs, education and poverty. Brown, after meeting Kashkari in one off-off-prime-time debate, isn’t even running a campaign. He’s just sitting on a $23 million war chest and running another of his Sun Tzu campaigns:

…those who win every battle are not really skillful – those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all… When you induce others to construct a formation while you yourself are formless, then you are concentrated while the opponent is divided.

GOP’s Weakest Link There are many other fine data points in PPIC’s new poll, none of which interest us all that much, except for one we keep yammering about because it’s key to whether the California Republican Party will prevent itself from falling even further from 28% of registration.

PPIC asked: Would you favor or oppose providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. if they met certain requirements including a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks, and learning English?

Eight in 10 (82%) of all Californians favor the proposal and just 17% oppose it. That includes 90% of Democrats, 87% of independents and – nudge, nudge – 58% of Republicans.

chavezandbrownBut wait, that’s not all! A pathway to citizenship is supported by 88% of liberals, 86% of moderates and 73% of conservatives. And – in case there was a question about what Hispanics want – by 76% of whites and 95% of Latinos. In polling, 95% is off the charts: you could ask a random sample of people if Elvis is dead or if the Pope is Catholic and likely fewer than 95% would say yes.

Tea Party, and therefore Republican Party, dogma, is that a path to citizenship constitutes the outrage of “amnesty” for immigrants. Which helps explain why Democrat Brown leads Republican Kashkari only 44-41% among whites but a staggering 74-19% among Latino likely voters. Xerxes is stuck with the California GOP brand – even if he himself parts ways with GOP orthodoxy by backing “a long pathway to citizenship” (whatever that means).

PPIC surveyed 1,702 California adult residents by landline and cell phone September 1-15 (the pathway to citizenship question was asked Sept. 8-11). Within the sample, 916 respondents were identified as likely voters. The margin of error for all adults was ±3.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level; for likely voters the margin of error was ±4.9 percent, and for the 652 adults asked the pathway question the margin of error was ±5.7 percent.

Special thanks to Linda Strean at PPIC for getting those extra crosstabs for Calbuzz.

Temper, Temper: Kashkari’s Odd Attack on Calbuzz

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

300-xerxes Neel Kashkari lashed out at two, slightly tipsy Calbuzzers extending handshakes Saturday night, a rookie display of pique and rancor that hints at a strain of distemper in his executive disposition.

“You’re the two geniuses who wrote that I wasn’t doing anything to help the Republican Party. Nice call,” snapped the wannabe GOP governor, before stalking off as we stood gape-mouthed. We waited for the sound of his bedroom door slamming but it was too loud in the hotel lobby to hear it.

Secret Memo to Neel: Might be time to drop the Red Bull and tweak diet.

At first glance, the goofy episode was just one more oddment in the endless firmament of state political conventions (and less strange, surely, than the Saturday night invocation featuring a plea to God to kill the bullet train). As a practical matter, however, Kashkari’s amped-up snarl at geezer journos offers a glimpse of an overwrought personal style in dealing with disagreement, at a time he wants to be hired to preside over some of the world’s most complex and contentious political issues.

kashkari closeupGape mouthed jammies: If borne of frustration, Neel’s mini-tantrum in a crowded hallway of the L.A. Airport Marriott was somewhat understandable, coming at the end of a long couple of days during which Mr. Cranky Pants was shunned and dissed in some key quarters of the convention, feeding a narrative of GOP disunity ably documented by Michael Finnegan, Seema Mehta, David Siders and Carla Marinucci, here, here and here.

As Staff Psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack asked, while mopping our brows as we lay upon our fainting couches after the set-to: “Was Neel perhaps feeling a bit sad and unappreciated at the time?”

Still, Crybaby Kashkari’s outburst baffled your plucky and steadfast Calbuzzards for several reasons:

1)    We’ve, um, never written that Kashkari “wasn’t doing anything to help the Republican Party.” Quite the opposite: we’ve noted on several occasions that his libertarian stances on cultural issues are nudging the GOP in the direction of Calbuzz Republicanism.

2)    Even if we had written what he falsely claimed, throwing a little hissy fit in front of delegates and reporters is not exactly textbook technique for handling disagreements with the political press,  which tend to be more successful when conducted privately and in a civil tone.

3)   Plus: WTF is your problem, dude?

 tryionkashkaricroppedA clue to the mystery: Aaron McLear, Kashkari’s top professional handler, had let him off the leash returned to Sacramento from L.A. earlier, and had no explanation for Neel’s behavior when we contacted him Saturday night, other than saying his guy had had some difficult days and urging us to cut him some slack.

By early Sunday, however, McLear and some of Neel’s fans in the press box had pulled their story together, and now pointed to 20-words at the bottom of a 1,125-word piece that we posted nearly two months ago. It seems we had offended Prince Tyrion and conjured his furious anger by writing the following. From McLear:

“Assume he was referring to this: ‘The widely known political imp Tyrion of Kashkari has not for one minute shown interest in re-branding his party.’”

Uh, okay. More confounding riddles!

1) If this so disturbed the Great Man, why nurse his resentment like a sore tooth with his tongue for two months instead of calling, emailing, texting or tweeting to say we’re all wet and explain why?  Or: stand there and talk to us about it on Saturday night?  Like, you know, an adult.

2) When the piece published, there was scant evidence that Neel’s mission was to re-brand the Republican party, or do anything other than promote his career; his previous rhetoric about poverty and unemployment was laudable enough, but what ideas or strategies had he set forth that in any way approached a redefinition of the state GOP (other than pretending to be homeless in Fresno – a grandstand stunt that didn’t sit well with Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for Controller, who now refuses to endorse Kashkari, surprise, surprise). And there was scarce talk of “re-branding” when he spoke at last spring’s convention to shill for pre-primary support.

3-Wait, does this guy really read Calbuzz that closely? Jeez, some days we don’t even get that far into our stories. Maybe he should have his head examined.

goldwaterComes the epiphany: And then it dawned on us. The piece to which Kashkari had taken objection was only tangentially about him anyway. Instead it was cast as a vicious personal attack on the wretched George Will, who had composed a cringe worthy paean to Neel, during a West Coast junket, comparing him to friggin’ Barry Goldwater.

Maybe George had too many martinis wherever he was staying in Menlo Park when he wrote about Goldwater’s nomination at the “unfortunately named Cow Palace” “fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco.” Or maybe he just had to come up with something to write off his trip out to the hustings…

Kashkari isn’t fighting for a cause or a movement or much of anything except to be governor. He’s a lot healthier face for the California GOP than Tim Donnelly would have been. And if his presence on the ticket signals a nudge toward reason among California Republicans, that’ll be a good thing for his party. But the suggestion that he’s the leader of some ideological shift is little more than the musings of a Washington Beltway scribe in search of a metaphor. And, no doubt, a fine dinner.

Here’s the thing: For Neel, as a Wharton/Goldman/Beltway conservative elite careerist, having George Freakin’ Will punch his ticket as the Next Big Thing was no doubt a true peak moment, a rapture of validation from a creaky oracle of worn-out Beltway wisdom. Then Calbuzz, which unlike Neel understands that the only people who read George Will are those paid to do so, wanders in to piss all over his big prize.

neel_kashkari-620x412Final piece of the puzzle: And then came Neel’s hangover slot speech to the convention Sunday morning, a thoughtful address delivered Phil Donahue-style (if Donohue had 12 double espressos before going on), in which he actually did argue for the re-branding of the Republican Party. A no-notes speech which he surely was mulling at the time of our encounter Saturday night (“Nice call!”).

I want to help lead the fight to reintroduce us to the people of California and of America…Our legacy, we are the party fighting for civil rights, we are the party fighting for the poor, we are the party fighting for working families… We should be damn proud of who we are.

Pretty good stuff (except that, as always, he banged too heavy on the keys and just had to  congratulate himself for being “transformational”). He deserves an attaboy for it.

His claim that the Republicans are the true party of civil rights, of course, is full of historical holes and hooey (see: Nixon, Southern Strategy) but it’s an unqualified good thing for all GOP stalwarts to hear that kind of uplifting stuff, if only to stop thinking about guns and gay marriage for a moment, and to be asked to stretch their political views to include compassion for the less blessed. Kashkari’s embrace of the Vergara case is a substantive and important issue that draws a clear line between D’s and R’s. And it can’t hurt to have two parties at least vaguely concerned about working families, instead of just one.

After he loses to the aged Gov. Gandalf in November, we’ll watch to see if Xerxes of Kashkari, pictured above, continues to work inside the California GOP to push it toward reason. If he does, we’ll agree that we were premature in our judgment about his mission. If not, well: Toldja!

Bottom line. Dear Mr. Kashkari: We’re really, really sorry we hurt your feelings. We promise never to do it again.

PS: Kashkari wasn’t the only Republican to snap at Calbuzz over the weekend. On Friday, at the welcome reception, we noticed a little old man that few other reporters recognized — the Rev. Lou Sheldon — had just endorsed Neel, who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, issues on which Sheldon had led virulent Christian crusades against within the California GOP for years. The Rev had even endorsed right-wing nutball Tim Donnelly in the primary. So we asked him if he was giving Kash a pass on social issues. “When you’re starving, crumbs taste darn good,” he said (suggesting Neel is pretty much table scraps.) David Siders of the Sacratomato Bee caught part of the interchange and posted it. Here’s the link.