Archive for the ‘John Burton’ Category



Press Clips: Another Huge Award for Calbuzz

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Now that the Pulitzer Prize committee has finally decided to join the 21st century by opening their competition to all conceivable forms of digital reporting, it’s only a matter of time before Calbuzz captures the Big Enchilada for our Special Brand of Journalism.

In the meantime, we’ve copped yet another top honor from our peers to put on the mantle right next to our already impressive collection:  we learned this week that we’ve won the silver medal in the prestigious “Crunks” competition, which ranks the best of the best in the “Year in Media Errors and Corrections.”

The list is compiled by Columbia Journalism Review columnist Craig Silverman, the world’s leading authority on news industry screw-ups, who honored us for our May 11 item setting the record straight on a conversation with California Democratic Party chairman John Burton a few days before:

In our Saturday post about the California Democratic Party’s ad attacking Meg Whitman but masquerading as an “issues ad,” we described the abrupt ending to our conversation with CDP Chairman John Burton. Through his spokesman, Burton on Monday complained that he had been misquoted. Burton says he didn’t say “Fuck you.” His actual words were, “Go fuck yourself.” Calbuzz regrets the error.

Silverman had earlier written a piece examining the weighty journalistic issues at stake in our extremely responsible effort, if we do say so ourselves, to ensure the record of history is clear about Burton’s statement; although we were disappointed not to win first place, we had to admit that the top finishing Ottawa Citizen did some outstanding work with its entry:

The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn, published Oct. 22. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn published Oct. 15, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our initial regrets were unacceptable and we apologize to Mr. Steyn for any distress caused by our previous apology.

“On behalf of the thousands of employees in the Calbuzz global family who work indefatigably every day to live up to our corporate motto – ‘Shooting the Wounded Since March 2009,’” our executive committee said in a press statement, “we accept this award with gratitude and, of course, deep humility.”

Perspective perspectives: Amid the madness of non-stop bloviation and serious heavy breathing generated by the knuckleheads who drive the 24/7 news cycle, it’s nice to know that there are some level-headed political reporters who still value the importance of context and perspective.

Case in point: the excellent assemblage of data by Talking Points Memo illustrating that, despite the opinions-every-second proclivities of Beltway geniuses, President Obama’s standing among voters is not much different at this point in his administration than that of all other presidents since JFK.

Ditto the New York Times, which took a step back from the firestorm of what-it-all-means political speculation about Obama’s tax deal with Republicans to examine its likely impact on the economy, concluding that it’s worth about 3 million new jobs.

And a tip o’ the hat also to Slate, for digging out the numbers that show that it is the red states, whose representatives are constantly whining about excessive spending, that benefit the most from federal largesse, at the expense of taxpayers in places like, oh say, California. Also to Dan Walters for reminding us that, despite the intractable economic and political problems wrapped up in the state’s chronic deficits, it’s a piddling amount viewed in the context of the size and scope of the California economy.

Presidential follies: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week reignited speculation about running for president as an independent by giving a high-profile speech decrying partisanship and proclaiming the need for pragmatic centrist politicians. Then he promptly tried to tamp it down by telling Katie Couric he isn’t planning to run.

But the Washpost’s estimable Dan Balz isn’t so sure, and has a nice scooplet reporting exactly what data points Team Bloomberg privately considers to be crucial in its calculations.

As we’ve noted previously, a serious Bloomberg candidacy raises the nightmare specter of a Sarah Palin presidency. Assuming she wins the GOP nomination, the electoral college could splinter in a three-way race, leaving the selection of the nation’s chief executive in the hands of the right-wing Republican House of Representatives. Shudder.

Wiki Laughs: While everyone else in the world seems to have a firm opinion about the out-on-the-edge ethical and journalistic issues raised by the Wikileaks dump of State Department documents, Calbuzz is still mulling the meaning and morals of the incident, although we’re totally with Naomi Wolf on the absurdity of at least one part of  l’affaire Assange.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: There’s actually a person who’s even more repulsive than Sarah Palin.

Five Key Reasons Brown Won Election as Governor

Friday, November 5th, 2010

One day back in July, Steve Glazer sighed heavily as he explained yet again why Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor was not responding to the barrages of TV ad attacks that Republican rival Meg Whitman kept firing at them.

Glazer, Brown’s unflappable but sharp-tongued manager, had just read yet another quote from a Democratic political professional, arguing that if the Attorney General did not begin to answer Whitman’s summer-long assault with TV advertising, he would fall fatally behind her by September, and never be able to catch up – the fate that befell Democrats Phil Angelides and Kathleen Brown in earlier contests.

“Every day we have to decide,” Glazer told Calbuzz, “if what they’re saying about Jerry is hurting us enough to cause us to have to go up on their air. So far, nothing they’ve thrown at us has caused us to change our plan.”

The Brown campaign’s daily refusal to be drawn into a no-win air war with Whitman in the three months after the June primary, despite near panic among his supporters, turned out to be the most crucial, high-risk strategic choice of the long campaign.

By practicing what Calbuzz dubbed political rope-a-dope back on October 1, 2009, the attorney general — assisted by an $8 million summertime assault on Whitman by labor –entered the fall campaign with an advertising budget that was comparable, if not equal, to the Armies of eMeg. Then, with his wiles, grit and shrewd political instincts, Krusty beat her like a drum.

Brown offered his own analysis Wednesday morning at a post-election press conference in Oakland.

“It’s very fortunate when I had no primary opposition.  It’s also very unfortunate for Ms. Whitman that she had serious primary opposition. Those two right there sets the stage. And then thirdly, there’s more Democrats than Republicans, and we have somewhat mildly liberal-leaning decline to state voters.

“And then, of course,” he added with a grin, “you have my sparkling personality.”

Here are the five keys to Brown’s victory:

-He kept his powder dry until fall. Brown’s fund-raising potential was a big reason that he didn’t face any opposition in the Democratic primary; newly elected Lite Gov. Gavin Newsom abandoned a challenge to Brown in part because he said the AG had frozen contributions from many party backers. And, in any other year, Brown’s fund-raising for the governor’s race would have been impressive, if not prohibitive: by the time he won his no-opposition primary, he had raised $23 million. And would bring in at least another $10 million before the deal was done.

But none of that mattered in the race against Whitman, the billionaire who had vowed to spend whatever it took to win. (Just a little presumptuously, the woman who hadn’t voted for 28 years, declared: “I refuse to let California fail”). She had both the resources and the will to try to make that strategy work. The $160+ million that she ended up spending – most of it her own money – was almost incomprehensible and, by the end, she had eclipsed by far any candidate’s spending on any non-presidential race in the nation’s history.

Looking back, Brown had little choice but to husband his resources. But under the unrelenting pressure of Whitman’s assault, it would have been easy to blink and to begin putting at least some ads up — as even some of his closest advisers had urged. Such a move would have proved fatal because, no matter how much money Brown put into such an effort, she always would have had more.

Mike Murphy, Rob Stutzman and other field marshals in the Armies of eMeg were hoping to bleed Brown dry, in the manner of Ronald Reagan outspending the Soviet Union into oblivion. In the fierce winds of a campaign, the hardest thing sometimes is to stick to a plan, and the Brown team’s resolve in doing so made all the difference.

Krusty was fortunate to have his wife, Anne Gust Brown, Glazer, ad man Joe Trippi, pollster Jim Moore and other smart and experienced folks around him to help make the decision not to start spending. It helped, too, that as Attorney General, Brown could get himself onto TV and into headlines by investigating Michael Jackson’s death, the finances of the City of Bell or whatever other hot new thing called for the attentions of the state’s top law enforcement officer.

-The unions stepped up to the plate. To an unprecedented extent, California’s labor movement got behind Brown, recognizing that if they didn’t, Whitman might simply blow him away and they would be faced with a Republican governor whose top priority appeared to be dismantling the influence that unions have on state government, in favor of increasing that of corporate interests.

Despite what Whitman would later say, Brown had always had an uneasy relationship with the labor movement (and he likely will again). But they saw him as a far sight better than Whitman, who was touting her plan to cut 40,000 state workers, freeze pensions and generally whack blue-collar interests.

Consultants like Larry Grisolano, Roger Salazar, Jason Kruger, Steve Smith, Courtney Pugh, Richie Ross and others steered coalitions that mounted aggressive independent-expenditure efforts, ultimately spending $8 million attacking Whitman during the summer, $5 million on Spanish-language propaganda and Latino turnout and $5 million to find and turn out non-union, like-minded voters. They targeted Asian voters in four languages and spent several million more on mail, TV and organizing.

At a time when Team Whitman was trying to tear down Brown, the labor campaign appears to have helped keep Whitman from breaking away. Her plaintive crying about “Jerry Brown, Inc.” spending millions to beat her up were hilarious to anyone who realized what the differential was between their resources. But the union effort at least kept her from having a free pass in muddying up Brown while portraying herself as pure as the driven snow.

The state Democratic Party, under quirky Chairman John Burton, also played a crucial role in putting together an aggressive and effective get-out-the-vote coordinated campaign operation that boosted and took advantage of the Democrats’ big voter registration advantage, in a year when Republicans everywhere else in the country out-organized them.

One caveat to all this: there was apparently a four-week period in the summer when Whitman was advertising but no IE ads were on the air. And during that window, Whitman’s ads appear to have driven up her own negatives and made voters less likely to support her. She had, it seems, already tarnished her own brand.

Brown had a simple message and he stuck to it. Despite the legions of ad makers and marketers that Whitman threw at him, Brown’s plain, simple and cheap ads were better.

Consciously and decidedly un-slick – to contrast with Whitman’s over-produced Madison Avenue spots — Brown’s guerrilla ads were inspired and produced by Trippi and often edited  by committee at the Oakland headquarters with the help of Christina Sheffey and Paul Blank — online and creative whiz kids Trippi had sent West. “Retired” ad man David Doak was a key adviser and Glazer, Gust and Brown were deeply engaged and made the final decisions about wording and traffic.

From the very first ad, shot by Francis Ford Coppola and narrated by Peter Coyote, Brown’s spots often featured Krusty talking directly into the camera and focusing on simple themes:

He had the know-how and experience to do the job – not another rookie after Gov. Schwarzmuscle – and he wouldn’t raise taxes without a vote of the people. The latter pitch for fiscal sanity was a key element in winning independents. Everyone knew he had a soft heart. But he needed to prove he had a hard head. And that line helped make the sale.

They also they made the best single ad of the season – the echo ad – which had been in the can for weeks in various iterations and was released only in the final days. Showing Whitman and Schwarzenegger saying exactly the same things – no wonder, since both messages had been crafted by Murphy – the ad ended with a devastating line from the San Jose Mercury News endorsement of Brown: “She utterly lacks the qualifications to be governor.”

-He won his base overwhelmingly and also captured the middle. The Latino vote, long described as “the sleeping giant” of California politics woke up and helped propel Brown to victory. His roots with Cesar Chavez and his long connections in the community helped organizers, especially after Meg’s Nicky Diaz debacle. He swept Latinos 64-30% according to the National Election Pool Survey of more than 3,800 voters by Edison Research.

Brown also cleaned Whitman’s clock among women – 55-39% — and he even carried men 51-45%.

Of course, Brown carried the 27% of voters who said they were liberals 86-8% while Whitman won the 33% who said they conservatives by 78-17%. Most important though, Brown carried the 40% of voters who defined themselves as moderates by 60-35%. Winning the middle was key: Brown knew it and he pitched his entire campaign to that end.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO POLITICAL JUNKIES AND FUTURE RESEARCHERS:  The NEPS/Edison Research data on the vote by party cannot be counted on. The data are NOT based on party registration but on party identification.

This was a nationwide survey, including states that do not have party registration, as California does. So for consistency in reporting national data, party ID was used to record partisan affiliations. The question asked was this: “No matter how you voted today, do you usually think of yourself as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or something else.” In the survey, 42% of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 31% as Republicans and 27% as independents or something else.

We won’t know until January, when the California Secretary of State releases the official Statement of Vote, what the actual party composition was in this election. But it won’t be this. Clearly, huge numbers of voters identified themselves as “independent” who are not registered as Decline to State. (Actual registration – although not necessarily the same as those who participated by mail and at the polls – is 44% Democrat, 31% Republican and 20% Decline to State.)

That’s why the survey found Brown winning the self-identified Democrats 91-7%, Whitman winning the Republicans 84-11% and Whitman also winning the “independents and others” by 47-43%. These numbers are simply not reliable.

It’s not possible for Brown to have won moderates 60-35% and to have lost the independents.

-He won the authenticity debate. Although Brown was often a loose cannon on the campaign trail – at various points, he compared Whitman to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, trashed would-be ally Bill Clinton as a liar and didn’t object when one of his handlers called Whitman a “whore” – he also came across as refreshingly real, compared to Whitman’s tightly scripted, highly marketed campaign.

In the debates, he made fun of his age and his lifelong presidential ambitions, lectured Whitman in human terms about her mistreatment of her housekeeper, and refused to pander to xenophobes on illegal immigration, saying that undocumented workers were not “serfs.”

He never gave up his stream of consciousness impressionistic verbal style, even when it cost him, as it did in the last debate when he tried to defend someone in his campaign referring to Whitman as a “whore.” (We think, but can’t prove, it was his wife, Anne.)

When asked at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach who he’d call for advice in the middle of the night, he said he didn’t have to call anyone because she’d be sleeping right next to him (that would be Anne).  In several of his ads he said, “At this stage of my life . . . “ making an asset out of his Gandalfian presence in California politics.

We think he did trim and darken his eyebrows – as Calbuzz had urged long ago. But other than that, he was just who he is: a wizened 72-year-old lifelong politician who knows, as he put it, where the bodies are buried in Sacramento and what skeletons are still in the closet there.

Glazer said it would come down to authenticity versus marketing. And it did.

Home Stretch: Meg and Jerry on Air and Ground

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The early onset senility sweeping through the executive suite of Calbuzz has caused us to forget the author of the best recent tweet on the governor’s race so, with apologies to this anonymous Twitter talent, we’ll just rip it off:

Jerry Brown is your crazy uncle and Meg Whitman is your mean aunt.

Unfair, to be sure. But concise and on point.  Pick your poison: The haughty billionaire and self-appointed savior of California who’d casually kick you to the curb if you’re an inconvenience and later deny it ever happened. Or the dedicated but distracted, impulsive and hyperactive political savant who’s always eager to inform you he’s the smartest guy in the room.

As they charge into the final two weeks of the campaign, both candidates are seeking to alter those meta-images. eMeg has hopped on a bus to hit every diner and coffee shop she can find across the state, wolfing down cheeseburgers and milk shakes at a heart-stopping rate while promising she’ll get everybody a job; Krusty the General has been focused more on substance, talking incessantly about budgets, taxes and the green job economy (with a dash of hothouse populism on the side).

Whitman’s sudden interest in being with the folks, which seems to us something she might have done, oh say, in the summer of 2009, is an effort to repair her badly sagging favorability ratings, as nearly a year of overwhelmingly negative ads worth something north of $100 million seem to have convinced California voters she’s just not a very nice person.

Add to that the facts that, a) from the start, very few of her ads have been positive and of those not one has been memorable and b) Her Megness on the natural doesn’t appear to be the kind of person you feel all warm and fuzzy about when she walks in the room, and it’s clear why her strategists have decided their best play is putting her out on the road.

We’ll fight them in the air…There’s no question that the strategy team at Camp Whitman believes the race is within the margin of error — a few points either way — depending on what the turnout is. If the Democrats, who have a 13-point registration advantage, show up with 10% more Ds than Rs, Whitman’s in deep yogurt. But at an 8-point spread, it’s a jump ball, they think. Not to mix a metaphor.

“We’ll beat them in GOTV [more on this later],” said Mike Murphy, Whitman’s chief strategist. “The issue is how we can increase DTS (decline-to-state voters) . . .  We have a lot of DTS mail afoot right now.”

Meanwhile, on the air, Whitman is running two tracks: a positive ad titled “Baloney,” that has a warm, talk-to-the-viewer Meg talking about jobs, schools and cutting government; and negatives that savage Brown as weak on the death penalty – with cops in (some sort of) uniform calling him a Rose Bird-loving wuss – and fiercely in favor of raising your taxes, stealing your purse and allowing fat, lazy, 55-year-old, retired state workers to eat bonbons and sip champagne.

As for Brown, he has spent most of the campaign pretending there isn’t a campaign. When he finally, reluctantly, announced his candidacy, he did one web video and then retreated to his clubhouse headquarters in Oakland, foraying out only to make self-serving weighty announcements connected to his duties as attorney general.

Given that a vast swath of the electorate has only dim recollections about his first turn as governor, he has risked being defined in the race by Whitman’s attack ads, which have portrayed him as a wild-eyed socialist, consorting with Castro and out to seize the public treasury on behalf of his labor thug friends. Fortunately for him, his union cronies spent $14 million attacking Whitman all summer long and kept her from breaking away.

Brown’s own straight-to-the-camera ads, consistently emphasizing “no new taxes without voter approval,” have had a decidedly home-movie quality about them compared to Whitman’s high-gloss spots. That, Brown aides tell us, was intentional – to underscore the essential fault line Krusty hoped to bring to the campaign: Whitman is phony; Brown is authentic.

Thus his recent strong emphasis on Meg’s proposal for a capital gains tax cut, which positions him as a fighter for the middle class, his discussions of his green jobs plan and his gauzy recitations of how he just can’t wait to dig into the details of the messed-up budget with his 120 closest friends in the Legilsature (Calbuzz sez: Watch what you wish for, Jerry).

The bright kids at Camp Krusty believe their guy has been picking up 1-2 points per week since Labor Day and that the race is now moving firmly in their direction. They think they’ve got both the issues and the character arguments on their side and that she has blown it with Latinos, women and moderates — all key components of a Democratic statewide victory.

On the air, Brown has used his cached $20 million to burnish his “knowledge and know-how” to balance the budget, create jobs and make the tough decisions. But he’s also running blistering ads that attack Whitman’s character, suggesting (with a polygraph running in the background) that she’s a liar and another citing tough language about Whitman from a San Jose Mercury News endorsement and highlighting the backing from most of California’s major newspapers. Tuesday morning Team Krusty rolled out still another new ad, this one with clips of Whitman and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger making almost identical arguments for how they would lead California.

We’ll fight them on the ground…Meanwhile, in the background, the Whitman campaign apparently is operating a major effort to micro-target voters and get them to cast a ballot for Meg. She’s not only got TV ads in Mandarin and Cantonese, but phone banks with people who speak Korean and Farsi, commercial information about voters’ incomes, automobiles and magazines.

Bottom line, they’ve got the ability to find a one-eyed, pickup-driving, Basque subscriber to Field & Stream in Atwater, if they think he’ll vote for Whitman.

So fancy is their program, that Garry South, the former consultant to Gray Davis (the last Democrat elected governor since Brown), is practically drooling. He’s been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post praising Whitman’s voter targeting efforts and slamming the California Democratic Party and its chairman, John Burton for a) giving $3.85 million to Brown and b) not having a decent GOTV effort of its own.

“This is not the way it’s supposed to work,” South told the Journal. “The Democratic nominee for governor in this state has to be the primary funder of coordinated campaigns.”

Brown, he told the Post, “will be arguably competitive on the air for the last four weeks, but I do not believe there is anything approaching a get-out-the-vote operation on the ground that is going to be up to the task.”

South’s praise for the Republican campaign and his dismissal of his own party’s effort drew a sharp rebuke from the CDP’s executive director Shawnda Westly. “In eight years he’s done nothing of note and it’s no surprise that Garry’s on the sidelines in one of the most competitive races in history,” she said. “He simply doesn’t know what’s happening in the current Democratic Party.”

We’ll fight them on the web...In 2009 and 2010, CDP Chairman Burton and the Democrats have raised a whopping $21.5 million which has been meticulously divvied into state and federal accounts because of varying limits on contributions, party officials told Calbuzz.

Even after giving Brown a big chunk of dough (“John doesn’t want a governor who will fuck poor people,” one CDP source said.) the party for the first time has been operating a $4 million voter contact program over the last three months of the general election. (That’s in addition to $2 million in anti-Whitman issue ads about Goldman Sachs that the party ran during the primary campaign.)

Not including training and voter-list sharing and technology disseminated last year, the party is using that $4 million to hunt down a million occasional Democratic voters, get absentee ballots to them, get them to turn them in and on a planned four-day door-to-door walk to find and bring out voters who still haven’t been contacted or convinced to vote, we’re told.

The Democrats’ targeting is surely not as elaborate as Whitman’s is purported to be. But it’s a far cry from the flaccid efforts the CDP made when South and Davis were in power in Sacramento. Back then, the governor was raising money for the party just to keep the lights on at headquarters, CDP officials said. Times have changed, they insisted.

Moreover, they’ve been assisted by the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America, which has given the state party the micro-targeting tools that the Obama campaign used to historic effect in 2008. That’s not to mention the Latino-focused ground operation being managed by labor in Southern California and the Central Valley.

Whether GOTV efforts from either side, however, will make much of a dent is hard to predict. In a normal year, most consultants think GOTV can be worth 2-4 percentage points. Whether Whitman’s lavish program can overpower the Democrats’ effort is unclear. But in a close race, every little bit matters.

Bad Quote Duel: Brown & Burton Meet eMeg & Ron

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

From  the accounts we’ve seen, GOP state chairman Ron Nehring had it all over Democratic party chief John Burton at their mano-a-mano insult fest at the Sacramento Press Club this week.

That’s not entirely surprising, of course, given that the tightly wound Republican enjoys two, big natural advantages over his unwound rival: 1) Nehring is actually capable of speaking in complete sentences and 2) he’s not battling a heartbreaking case of  Tourette Syndrome.

While Nehring bashed Democrats Barbara Boxer and and Jerry Brown with some pretty good lines — “When Boxer was first elected to Congress in 1982, ‘The A-Team’ was a TV show and not in a movie, and I think Jerry Brown’s registration card was in Roman numerals” — Burton criticized GOP wannabe governor eMeg Whitman for being over-reliant on consultants by proving anew that bad taste costs no more: “I don’t know if she’s alone when she goes to the bathroom.”

Yuk yuk.

And when Nehring, 40, argued that because the diverse Republican statewide ticket looks more like California’s population, “the political jet streams will be in our favor,” in the November election, the 112-year old Burton responded with this gas-bag, head-scratching pronouncement:

Changes of winds and winds of change, who the hell knows where the wind goes. It tends to change. Do you ever watch the weather report? The wind’s coming here, but they go there?

Yeah, well, there is that.

Krunching Krusty: More troubling for Democrats than the latest creaky performance of their, um, grizzled leader, was a stinging comment Nehring made about Brown, which seemed to us to carry considerable political resonance:

Nehring said he’s not surprised Brown is calling for a number of debates.

“If I was Jerry Brown, I’d do anything I could to hit the reset button as often as I could,” Nehring said. “He’s the de facto incumbent. The guy’s gotta do something to change the direction of the campaign. Quirkiness is not a strategy. It’s not working for him so far.”

Indeed.

As if on cue, Brown uncorked a series of oddball utterances that not only underlined the point about the inherent weakness of strategic quirkiness, but also handed eMeg some fresh material with which to attack him as the same old same old and position herself as the agent of change.

In a Tuesday address to the California District Attorney’s Association, Brown, for reasons that remain unclear, portrayed himself as the defender of the status quo, recalling a conversation he had during his first turn as governor with the late, long-serving state senator Randolph Collier:

When I was up there reforming and upsetting the apple cart, he said, “Young man, why do you stir all these things up?”…He said, “Don’t stir things up,” he said “Don’t try to make too many changes”…

I can’t remember his exact words, but it was “Don’t rock the boat,” and you know, there’s a lot of wisdom to that. There is. Now I’ll rock it a little bit because you got to get it on an even keel.

Don’t rock the boat? Really? In a year when veteran politicians are only slightly less popular than rabid skunks,  Mr. New Age Future Lies Ahead wants to run on a platform of “Don’t Rock the Boat”?

Oy.

The Empire struck back within moments of the comment with a volcanic eblast attacking Brown for having “no plans to shake up the status quo.” The eMegs jumped him with the same play Wednesday, when he again left himself wide open to the charge that he’s a status quo insider, as he was pressed in a TV interview for specifics of how he would address the budget mess.

As previously, Brown responded to the line of questioning with nothing but tired bromides about getting all the legislators in a room and going through the budget line by line blah blah blah, ending with this exchange with CNBC’s Jane Wells:

When will we get a specific plan?
Well the plan is to go over each item of the budget.
But when will we…
That is the plan. The plan is the process.

Ah. Yes, it all makes sense now:

The plan is the process.
The process is the plan.
I am the walrus.
Goo goo g’joob.

eMeg plays go fetch: Not to be outdone by any measure, Whitman held up her end of the inane comment sweepstakes, when she was asked at a Roseville event what she would do as governor, after she criticized lawmakers for taking their summer break with the budget unresolved.

Whitman also said all lawmakers should stay in Sacramento during the upcoming July recess and forgo their per diem. Legislative leaders have said they will likely send most legislators home during the break – without per diem – while the budget committee and leaders hash out the budget.

“What I would do is take this Legislature and say, ‘OK, 10 of you go find money here, 10 go find money here, 10 go find money here,’ ” Whitman said.

By golly, our Meg’s got it! We can hear the Democratic leadership already: “We’ll solve the budget crisis by having a treasure hunt! Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Hurrah for Meg!”

Or not.

And don’t call me chief! Senator Barbara Boxer won a procedural victory Wednesday, when her Environment and Public Works Committee moved legislation she favors to remove the liability cap on oil companies that cause spills.

But Republican rival Carly Fiorina’s backers on Capitol Hill were gleefully sending around this excerpt from the hearing, which they see as standing up their argument that Babs is an arrogant, ideologically isolated player who even alienates members of her own party, as evidenced by 1) fellow Democrat and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus lecturing her with a not very subtle jab for pandering legislation that is more “message” than substance and 2) Herself responding by putting on a most frightful version of her best Don’t-Call-Me-Ma’am frown.

Two Weeks to Go: Calderon Meets Condoleezza

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Two weeks before the June 8 primary election, the fight for the Republican nomination for governor has come down to this: Raising Arizona vs. Big Love.

As Meg Whitman rolled out a new ad, featuring her Mormon mentor Mitt Romney and a cast of thousands attesting to her conservative bona fides, Steve Poizner doubled down with his own spot, whacking his rival for not backing The Grand Canyon State’s illegal immigration crackdown law.

After more than a year of campaigning, and in excess of $100 million in collective spending, eMeg and The Commish have begun making their final arguments to GOP voters, each trying to define the election with the same basic message: I’m the true right-winger in this race.

Two moderate Republicans trying to tart themselves up as right-wingers, Her Megness and Poiz have both sought to expose their rival as a liberal-in-drag , pointing fingers and hurling mighty oaths at the other over  character – You’re a non-voting, Wall Street scumbag pornographer! No, you’re a partial birth abortion-loving, lying hypocrite! – and ideology – You’re a Jarvis-hating, solar panel-hugging union tool! No, you’re a tax-loving, smelt-smooching,  Van Jones fellow traveler!

Because both are hobbled in making their case to the right-wing voters who dominate Republican primaries in California by the lack of a long or consistent conservative record, it’s not surprising, as they enter the stretch run, that the latest ad for each rests on third-party validators – and invalidators – to establish movement authenticity cred.

Whitman’s latest ad takes the more direct approach.

She trots out a trio of iconic conservative Republicans to testify on her behalf. Mindful that Poizner has undermined her with his Goldman Sachs attacks, presidential wannabe Romney praises her “integrity,” while Condoleeza Rice lends her hard-line rep as George Bush’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to endorsing eMeg’s “values” and “strength” and Prop. 13 guru Jon Coupal blesses her as the “only one real fiscal conservative” who will protect taxpayers.

“Strong…fiscal conservative…leader,” the three say serially to end the spot.

Poizner takes an oppositional approach, employing anti-endorsements to send a message on immigration as a signifier of his conservative credentials.

Not since John C. Fremont opened a can of whupass on the forces of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna  has anyone taken a  bigger swing at Mexico: using a news clip of Felipe Calderon’s speech to Congress last week, during which he bashed the new Arizona law, the ad directly links Whitman and the Mexican president as backers of amnesty and anything-goes immigration policy on one side, and Poizner squarely on the other, as it builds on a previous spot connecting eMeg to the alleged policy of President Obama.

“Do you want a governor who has the same position on illegal immigration as the president of Mexico?” the announcer intones.

Messaging aside, three more key points:

1-From what we can glean, eMeg is still out-spending Poizner about 2-to-1 heading into the final days; he’s already got a decidedly uphill fight and, without forking out significantly more cash, it’s hard to see how he pulls it out.

2-Whatever else the ad war has accomplished, it’s a safe bet that it’s driven the negatives of both Republicans way up. We’ll know more after seeing the USC/LA Times and Field polls but we hear that favorability ratings among general election voters for Whitman and Poizner are both under water – about 3-to-4 negative – while Brown’s is up to about 5-to-3 in positive territory.

3-If that’s the case,  whoever wins the GOP nomination  may want to spend some time digging out of their negative favorability hole before attacking Brown. And that would be a huge relief to Krusty  who’s been able to save cash and political capital while  lambasting his GOP rivals as “apostles of ignorance and darkness.”

“ I don’t think they’re even healthy for the mind,” Brown said of the two ad campaigns last week. ” I think they’re contaminating the children who may see these things.”

Jerry’s Cash Cache

Back in the first week of May, when Calbuzz first reported on the California Democratic Party’s Goldman Sachs anti-Whitman TV ad masquerading as an “issues ad,” we had what we thought was solid information from Democratic sources that the CDP’s initial buy – of just under $1 million – would be followed by a couple more weeks.

Since Attorney General Jerry Brown had raised the money for the CPD’s ad buy, it made sense that the ad would keep running for a while in hopes of weakening Whitman’s favorability among Democrats, independents and perhaps even some Republicans. (BTW, it was when we tried to discuss this with CDP Chairman John Burton that he said fuck you told us to go fuck ourselves.)

Well, something happened that our sources didn’t anticipate: with the CPD ad in the mix while Steve Poizner was unloading ads on Whitman about Goldman Sachs, illegal immigration and her voting record, eMeg’s favorability ratings got so bad so fast, Krusty the General Brown – a renowned cheapskate – decided he didn’t need to spend all that money on the Goldman ad.

Which is where the $2.25 million came from that Brown received on Friday from the California Democratic Party. Which is part of the reason we won’t be too surprised if, when Brown’s next money report is filed, he has about $20 million on hand.

Stupid Poll Tricks

Remember when we mentioned that the Survey USA poll on May 10 that found Whitman with a mere 2-point lead over Poizner was most likely a pile of horse manure? Well lo and behold, Survey USA, with its fancy schmancy robotic pre-recorded calls, now says Whitman leads 54-27. Of course, there’s no explanation why Poizner would have dropped 10 points or why Whitman would have picked up 15. But who cares? It’s all just numbers, right?

The Daily Kos poll, by Research 2000, which has Whitman leading Poizner 46-36%, sounds more sound to us.

Get a room, willya?: Mickey Kaus, the blogosphere’s favorite son candidate for U.S. Senate, wants Barbara Boxer to meet him at the Holiday Inn.