Archive for the ‘Campaign Technology’ Category



Beware Murphy, Rasmussen and Other B.S. Artists

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

In the days following the elections in California and across the country, so many commentators, “political experts” and partisans have engaged in so much overstated, hyperventilated and tortured analysis, we at Calbuzz have hardly known what to say.

But when we saw meathead David Gregory interviewing our friend Mike Murphy, the $90,000-a-month campaign guru for Meg “Biggest Loser” Whitman, on “Press the Meat” the other day, we felt compelled to get up off the floor and say something.

“We got beat and, you know, I ran the campaign, and I take responsibility for it,” Murphy said, at least acknowledging that he had been in the neighborhood.  But then came excuse, No. 1: “It’s a very blue state and it’s getting bluer. As the red, you know, wave kind of went one way, there was a bit of a blue riptide coming the other way.”

And then, excuse No. 2: “CEO candidates who are doing kind of a tough medicine message . . . Meg and Carly Fiorina in California, they weren’t buying it. So we just couldn’t get there. We could win the Republicans, win the independents, but in California if you don’t win a lot of Democrats… you don’t win and we did not.”

Whoa there, big fella. “Win the independents?” If Meg and Carly had actually won the actual independents, they would be governor- and senator-elect.

Now it’s Murph’s job to spin. And when you make $2 million off a political client (if you just count Whitman’s initial investment in Murphy’s film company and his salary) you have good reason to try to convince the world that it was an impossible task. But it’s Gregory’s job – and since he didn’t do it, ours – to question his spin.

What you have to ask, though, is what was Murphy doing telling the California and national media – the day before the election – that his polling showed the race to be essentially tied and that Meg’s GOTV program was going to put her over the top?

Consultants have an obligation to work as hard as they can for their clients, but they also ought to consider their credibility with the reporters who will be covering them in the future. There are a lot of ways of doing both: “Look, it’s going to be close. This is a heavily Democratic state. But we think we’re going to do well.” Whatever.

Which brings us to Harry G. Frankurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University, who wrote in 2005: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.” Unlike liars, bullshitters are unconcerned about whether what they are saying is true, Frankfurt argued in “On Bullshit.” They simply alter the rules of the discussion so that truth and falsity become irrelevant.

In this way, Frankfurt contends, bullshit is an even greater enemy of truth than lies. This may be an even more important argument than Calbuzz made in our essay “The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying” back in July.

As we explained yesterday, Jerry Brown carried the independents in California even though the National Election Pool exit poll by Edison Research showed Whitman winning them 47-43%. That’s only because the NEP exit poll didn’t actually survey actual independents – or “Decline to State” voters as they’re known in California. They called “independent” anyone who didn’t think of him- or herself as a Democrat or a Republican.

We harp on this because we want to bust the myth that Whitman carried the independents in California BEFORE it becomes part of the historical narrative about the 2010 election. (Like the so-called “Bradley Effect” has become part of mythology. This is the false belief that voters lied to pollsters before the 1982 governor’s election because they didn’t want to appear racist when being surveyed. Long story short: the polls were right among precinct voters but they didn’t count absentee voters and George Deukmejian beat Tom Bradley among absentees who had already voted.)

Here’s the point: Brown won the moderates 60-35% and he beat Whitman in the polls that surveyed actual DTS – independent — voters. To win statewide in California you have to carry your party, win the independents and make some inroads into the other party. That’s what Brown did.

But Whitman’s standing with independent voters is just one of the myths being perpetuated about the 2010 election. And though it’s of immediate concern in California, it’s likely not the most important fiction at large in the journosphere.

Let’s take the “historic repudiation of Barack Obama and the Democrats,” the “powerful ideological shift” or whatever formulation is most current.

Didn’t happen.

As the notoriously neutral Cliff Young and Julia Clark, pollsters at Ipsos Public Affairs, argue in a lucid piece published by Reuters:

Pundits and politicos alike would have us believe that the Obama era is over, with the general elections in 2012 being a mere formality to an imminent Republican resurgence. Obama went too far left, or so the argument goes, and the Republican gains this year are a leading indicator of a re-adjustment.

In our view, this perspective is fundamentally wrong: the results of the present mid-term elections have little to do with the probable outcome of the general election in 2012 . . .

The 2010 electoral cycle, with the poorest performing economy in a generation, was a change election which favored the party out of power – the Republicans. This means that there was no fundamental shift in American values, or a “new Republican mandate,” but instead that the election was the result of the natural ebbs and flows of voter sentiment, driven by larger economic forces.

Then there’s the “rejection of Obamacare” – an odious label the Republicans use to describe the health care reforms passed by Congress and which some numbskull journalists insist on mimicking.

As CNN reported Wednesday, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll (a very professional and reliable outfit and wholly transparent): Americans are split and conflicted about their opinion of the new health care reform law. . . 42 percent have a favorable opinion of the law, compared with four in 10 who have an unfavorable view of the new measure. The survey indicates that roughly one-third of Americans are enthusiastic about the law, almost one-third are angry about it, but more than half are confused when it comes to health care reform.

According to CNN’s digest of the survey, about half of adults say they’d like Congress to repeal all or parts of the health care reform law. But when asked about specifics, most want to keep key provisions. More than 70% would keep the tax credits to small businesses and financial help to Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs. And a majority wants to keep provisions that close the Medicare doughnut hole and prohibit denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

As Kaiser reported: It is unclear how much public support House Republicans will find should they attempt to repeal or dismantle the law. Overall, about a quarter think the law should be entirely repealed and another quarter think only parts should be repealed, while about two in ten think the law should be left as is and another two in ten want to see it expanded. Still, even among those who voted for Republican candidates and those who say they want to repeal parts or all of the law, majorities still want to keep some of its most popular provisions.

So much for the “mandate” to undo health care reform. If Obama and the Democrats have any spine, they won’t be stampeded by those who would do the bidding of the medicopharma lobby.

Besides, as our old friend E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post, digesting Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin of the Center for American Progress, and the very smart Hendrick Hertzberg of the New Yorker argue, the electorate that turned out in November 2010 was not the same electorate that showed up at the polls in November 2008: it was older and whiter. So talking about what “the people” are demanding – as so many Washington pols are wont to do – is just so much (there’s no nice way to put this) bullshit.

And while we’re on the subject of bullshit: Let’s not forget all those Rasmussen polls that predicted elections everywhere wrong, wrong, wrong and which appear also to have had an outsized influence early in election cycles of creating narratives that showed Republican candidates doing far better than public polls were showing.

For further detail, read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times where he explained that “polls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports — which released more than 100 surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, including some commissioned under a subsidiary on behalf of Fox News — badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.”

And don’t miss poll wizard Mark Blumenthal, now ensconced over at Huffington Post, who reported:

A remarkable bi-partisan group of campaign pollsters released an open letter this afternoon that assailed the “sometimes uncritical media coverage” of the “proliferation” of public pre-election polls that fail to disclose basic information about how they are conducted and that “have the capacity to shape media and donor reactions to election contests.”

The authors of the letter — 9 Democrats and 10 Republicans — amount to a virtual “who’s who” of campaign pollsters, the political consultants that conduct the opinion surveys sponsored by political campaigns for their internal use.

Their message is a bit unusual: At a time when political journalists and bloggers are busily scoring the accuracy of the final public election surveys, these pollsters called on the news media to judge the quality of polls based on “the professionalism with which they are conducted” rather than “their accuracy in the closing weeks of the election.”

More specifically, the campaign pollsters urged journalists to hold public polls to disclosure standards of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) that call on pollsters to release details such as the exact wording of questions, the demographics of their samples, the methods used to draw their samples and interview voters and the response rates they obtain.

Loyal readers of Calbuzz will note that back in October 2009, we laid out the kinds of standards we’d apply in taking polls seriously and while we have, from time to time, made mention of private polls and those that don’t adhere to AAPOR standards, we’d consistently used them only as referential data – not as principal measures of any horse race.

Our point, dear Calbuzzers, is this: Don’t buy a bag of bullshit just because it’s in a pretty package. The best spin is true.

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.

Krusty Krashes, Meg De-Friended, Flash Squished

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Gandalf Discovers Technology, Chapter 23: Reports that Jerry Brown’s web site crashed, moments after Barack Obama e-blasted a political support pitch for him, may have caused some brief embarrassment to Krusty’s bare-bones campaign staff, but it was quickly overcome when Jerry’s Kids started toting up the bottom line impact of the message.

Obama’s email (…meeting these challenges will be possible only if we have bold leaders like Jerry Brown working alongside us, yadda yadda…) hit our inbox at 12:13 p.m. and Gandalf’s site went down around 12:45, coming back up about 10 minutes later.

Even at that, said trusty Krusty flack Sterling Clifford, more than 3,000 people signed up for campaign emails in the first hour, or about one every 1.2 seconds, according to calculations prepared by the Calbuzz Division of  Critical Mathematical Thinking and Old Abacus Restorations.

Not half bad and, while we waited and waited until push-the-button time for Brown’s vast and far-flung IT department to ship us more data about the Obama readership spike, it seemed impressive enough to keep us from crafting another full-length cheap shot about how hideously over-matched his online and tech operations are against the Empire of eMeg.

“We’ve been in regular touch with the White House political team for months, going back to last winter,” said Clifford, explaining the genesis of Tuesday’s presidential play. “They’ve offered help in a number of ways…with presidential involvement.”

Brown’s campaign, however, offered only clichéd coyness when we asked about any plans for Obama to fly out for a fundraiser in the fall. “That’s for us to know and you to find out,” Clifford actually said. “This is not the only time we’ll see the support of the White House.”

I thought you were my friend. Calbuzz pal Barbara O’Connor, one of our favorite, well-informed eggheads on the subject of state politics and government, checked in to say that reports about her supporting Meg Whitman are not only wrong but also result from a manipulative practice by Team eMeg.

Meg Whitman’s Facebook ad misused my name. They said I was a supporter because I looked at her website and Facebook page as an observer. So much for trying to see what they are posting. If you see my name on any of their materials please complain and ask it to be pulled. I am not supporting her.

Duly noted. To get off the list, she defriended eMeg. (Gasp!)

By the numbers: State GOP chairman Ron Nehring has gotten a lot of mileage out of bragging on the gender and ethnic diversity of the Republicans statewide slate.

“We’ve got a statewide ticket that looks like California, that reflects the diversity of California,”  Nehring told reporters over the weekend.

Among those who ran with Mr. Chairman’s spin was the grassroots blogger Mayhill Fowler – yes, the very one who captured Obama’s famous “cling to their guns and religion” private comment during the 2008 campaign –in her Huffpost report about the convention:

The top of the state ticket has the flavor of inclusiveness that Americans like in their politics now: three women (Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Mimi Walters), an African-American (Damon Dunn) and a Hispanic (Abel Maldonado). Diversity was on display in San Diego.

Fair enough, but let’s not get too carried away. While Nehring would have us think the GOP has practically become the UN, the Republican ticket “looks like California” exactly as much as does the Democratic slate: both parties nominated three women and five men, six whites and two minorities for  eight statewide offices.

It’s also worth noting that the most recent demographic data on the parties, a report from the Field Poll released last summer, showed that white voters still account for 79 percent of registered Republicans, although whites are now a minority – 43 percent – of the state’s overall population; by comparison, white voters represent about 55 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.

Of course, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, as Mao Tse Tung, the Ron Nehring of his own party, was fond of quoting Lao Tzu.

Final word from GOP confab: Jon Fleischman, the state Republican party’s Man of Many Hats, was in a state of constant motion throughout the just-concluded weekend convention, careening from event to event to fulfill the duties – or further the machinations – of his various roles as apparatchik, blogger and political conspirator.

Around midnight Saturday, Fleischman collapsed his hefty frame into a chair in the Grand Lobby Bar of the convention hotel, joining a trio of off-duty journos who were about 13 or 14 drinks into the mission.

Amid the gossip and good fellowship, Flash recounted an absorbing yarn of how, as a 21-year old knuckledragger-in-training in the early 1990s, he had been roughly flung and pinned to the floor, face ground into the carpet, by two of Pete Wilson’s bodyguards – for the ideologically pure, if woefully misguided, act of shouting personal insults about tax increases at PeeWee while running towards the governor at a high rate of speed down an otherwise deserted hotel corridor.

It explained a lot about Fleischman.

Mid-tale, he glanced at his phone to read a text message he’d just received.   Sent seconds before by state Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth who, as it happened, was sitting with a lively group a mere 10 feet away, the text read: “Hanging out with squishes?”

After sharing the message with his journalistic companions, who took it as a compliment, Fleischman finished his story and his drink, then wearily rose to join Senator Hollingsworth’s party, shaking his head at the unstinting demands placed on a man with multiple agendas.

Final photo from GOP confab: Pictured here: The volcanic Sarah Pompei, eMeg spokeshuman, on the convention floor on Friday night, shortly before she mysteriously disappeared and turned up missing from the Dr. Hackenflack dinner.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: We’re pretty sure the numbers on peeing in the pool are wayyyy low.

Chris Finnie: Missing the Point About the Grassroots

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By Chris Finnie
Special to Calbuzz

Calbuzz recently highlighted a link to Talking Points Memo, headlined “Meg Whitman Copies Obama Playbook,” in which writer Christina Bellantoni argues that eMeg’s $150 million campaign for governor is effectively cloning the president’s 2008 operation.

Sorry boys, but Christina’s clueless.

Whitman may be trying to duplicate some of the tactics of Obama’s game plan – appealing to Latino voters in Spanish, targeting young professionals and spending a lot of money (none of it, notably, raised from the grassroots as Obama’s was).

But like so many other politicians before her, she is missing the essence of the matter: she doesn’t have an emotional connection to voters. And that makes all the difference

Where’s the passion?

Before Obama, the new Internet Age, from-the- ground-up campaign was pioneered by Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race. Political pundits were agog at his online organizing and fundraising; suddenly every candidate wanted Meetup groups and web organizing tools.

But they were often disappointed with the results, because they mistook the map for the territory.

I volunteered with both the 2004 Dean campaign and the 2008 Obama campaign. In both, many of the volunteers felt passionate about the candidate and connected with the other volunteers we worked with. Both campaigns did a great job of fostering those connections. And they persist to this day.

The Obama campaign did a masterful job of using technology, not as an end in itself, but to harness and organize this grassroots fervor. When I worked phone banks in Boulder Creek, California, the communication from Chicago was always quick and seamless. And the personal acknowledgements to volunteers were frequent and effective.

California Rep. Maxine Waters, D-L.A., highlighted this point at the state Democratic convention in April. Speaking to grassroots activists at the annual “Red to Blue” fundraising dinner to support Democratic candidates in Republican strongholds in California, Waters said campaign strategy is too often all about money, specifically the money that campaign consultants make on media buys.

She said that as long as the primary way consultants make money is by buying media, candidates will be increasingly distant from voters, and office holders isolated from the people they represent.

Harkening back to the days of real town hall meetings, Waters spoke of the passion generated when candidates meet in storefronts with local volunteers who walk and phone for them – not as a staged media event, but as a central part of their campaigns.

What Whitman lacks

Meg Whitman may have as many paid staff members on her communications team as the Obama campaign fielded in all 50 states. But I doubt she’ll attract many people to sit in a neighbor’s living room and make phone calls to support her.

She will continue to burn through vast amounts of money on media buys but never achieve the grassroots support Obama was able to mobilize.

She will not have anyone like the woman in Florida who rented an office and recruited volunteers, then presented the whole thing to the Obama campaign when they finally made it to her state.

The Whitman campaign may boast of having volunteers, but they’re little more than a prop. The plain fact is that there is no space in her corporate-style marketing campaign for personal communication or authentic interactions with the candidate. Heck, she won’t even talk to the media. As Rep. Waters told us, this approach will increasingly isolate her from the people she needs to reach.

Whitman also will not gain that support because California voters simply don’t like her. Not even the Republicans, which the Field Poll numbers show clearly.

Sure, they’re willing to let her try to buy the election; the party is grateful that she’s spending her money, and not theirs. But she doesn’t have a message that grabs anybody and nearly all of what she’s proposing has been tried by Schwarzenegger and hasn’t worked.

Most importantly, she has no emotional connection to voters.

Unfortunately for us Democrats, Jerry Brown’s campaign has been nearly as lackadaisical in building grassroots support, and is just beginning to reach out to volunteers.

John Laird = Obama Playbook

As Brown begins to do this, he would be well advised to look to the effort of former Assemblyman John Laird, who’s running in the special election race for the coastal 15th state Senate district.

Laird has volunteers setting up phone banks for him on their own all over the state. Community groups that came together through Organizing for America groups are making calls, as are statewide volunteers from Democracy for America.

Groups all over the state are organizing themselves, or working as a group to support Laird’s bid, because they feel passionately about his progressive ideas and having him in the Senate to enact them.

Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee may have more money, with millions from big oil and insurance companies, and a big assist from Whitman, but Laird has the sort of people-powered campaign every politician should hope for.

Chris Finnie sits on the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee, serves as a delegate to the California Democratic Party, and is a member of the CDP Organizational Development Committee. She became a political activist in the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 and has since served on campaign staffs with Cegelis for Congress and McNerney for Congress. She also volunteered in the Obama campaign in 2008, and has acted as a volunteer consultant with several other campaigns. She ran for chair of the California Democratic Party in 2009 as what Calbuzz called the “bran muffin” candidate. In her spare time, Chris works as a freelance marketing copywriter.

Jerry Brown Sex Scandal Meets eMeg’s Pixel Dust

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

This just in – 34 years after the fact.

Former White House Press Secretary and  Calbuzz old friend Mike McCurry on Thursday revealed that his first job in politics was working for Jerry Brown’s 1976 stop-Jimmy Carter campaign for president in New Jersey, where Mike had just graduated from Princeton.

McCurry shared some juicy dish from those long-ago days, as he held forth at Brews & Views, the micro-public affairs forum that Lenny Mendoca of McKinsey and Co. organizes at his Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

It was kind of a homecoming for McCurry, who used to fish off the Pillar Point Pier in nearby Princeton-by-the Sea when he was a San Carlos teenager at the late Ravenswood High School. Sipping a  Mavericks and answering questions, he noted that his first political gig included picking up Brown one morning at his hotel, where there was a bit of a stir because the bachelor California governor had had a sleep-over visitor in his room: Linda Ronstadt.

How synchronous that Jerry’s young driver would one day go on to serve as press secretary for Bill Clinton, against whom Brown would also run in 1992, and with whom Krusty famously nearly came to blows during a presidential debate.

My page views are bigger than your page views: Must read of the week is Ken McLaughlin’s take out on Meg Whitman’s extensive use of new technology tools, the best piece we’ve read detailing the scope and specifics of how Team eMeg is adapting them for campaign purposes.

Most intriguing to us is their practice of live streaming video from Brown’s campaign events back to their headquarters, which enables them to respond in real time to his every flip, flop and foible; coincidentally, Ken’s piece ran the same day we reported on Krusty’s caterwauling about being constantly recorded by the Empire of Meg, a wheeze that underscores the considerable distance between the communications capabilities of the Democrat and Republican candidates.

The former eBay CEO’s carpet-bombing of the airwaves generated the most political buzz during her $80 million march to victory over Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. But behind the scenes, her campaign served as a laboratory for new technology that will be unleashed against her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, in the months leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

A glimpse into Whitman’s tech spending is startling: The latest campaign expenditure reports show she had spent $2.7 million through May 22 on website development and information technology alone — seven times more than Brown spent on his entire campaign.

“The incredible amount of money Whitman is spending allows her to buy every bell and whistle ever invented,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political science professor. “And it fosters the perception that Jerry Brown is late to the party.”

Gee, we must have missed his arrival.

Jack Chang’s good yarn comparing and contrasting the two campaign’s ops  touched some of the same ground, but was most notable for the extraordinary exertions of Tucker Bounds, who actually portrayed Her Megness – presumably with a straight face – as the leader of “a movement.”

We’ve been innovative in the way we communicate, and that’s a product of the campaign trying to be as effective as possible in building support for what we see as a movement type of candidate,” said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

He’s right, of course: listening to Meg, we can almost the strains of Dr. King: “Rich at last, rich at last, thank God Almighty, I’m obscenely rich at last.”

There he goes being thoughtful again: NYU’s Jay Rosen is one of the most imaginative, original and articulate thinkers about the future of the news industry, and the intersection of new media, old media and politics, and his recent essay, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: On the actual ideology of the American press,” despite its windy title, is worth a read for newsroom rats and political hacks alike.

Rosen rejects the clashing conventional wisdoms of the political right and left, that hold that political reporters are either a) liberal ideologues or b) corporate handmaidens, in favor of a perspective and vocabulary that examines the press as tribal creatures far more interested in the values and good opinions of peer members of what he calls “the church of the savvy” than any  belief system based on mere politics.

The Church of the Savvy…is my name for the actual belief system that prevails in political journalism….

Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passon, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. As I wrote on Twitter the other day, “the savvy don’t say: I have a better argument than you… They say: I am closer to reality than you. And more mature.”

Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.

Calbuzz sez check it out.

Seema seems everywhere: The ubiquitous Seema Mehta penned the best analysis of the whys and wherefores of Whitman picking a fight with the California Nurses Association as the forward shot of a broader attack to scapegoat unions as the source of most of California’s problems.

Laden with foreshadowing is the kicker of the piece, a strong quote from SacDem consultant Gale Kaufman, who led labor’s successful beat back of  Governor Schwarzmuscle’s attempt to make the same play back in 2005:

“She’s very used to getting her own way, and she’s used to buying things. Those two parts of her personality have become pretty clear during this campaign,” Kaufman said. “She just assumes that somehow if she bullies the unions, the unions are going to back off. Well, she doesn’t know the nurses, because they never back off.”

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: White House press corps goes completely native.