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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Tulchin’



Tulchin: Voters Back Legal, Regulated Online Poker

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

By Ben Tulchin
Special to Calbuzz

In his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown asked for alternative solutions to California’s budget crisis and one solution is already in the works – Senate Bill 40 by State Sen. Lou Correa, to legalize and regulate online poker.

This bill would generate millions of dollars in revenue and create thousands of jobs in California, which will help balance the state’s budget and prevent deeper cuts to essential services.  So how do California voters feel about this proposal?

They strongly support it, according to a recent poll of 600 likely California voters by Tulchin Research.  The good news for the governor and lawmakers in Sacramento is that the people have strong and clear opinions on the matter:

– 66% of Californians, including strong majorities of Democrats (71%), Decline-to-State voters (68%) and Republicans (58%), support regulating and taxing the profits of online poker.

– By a margin of 65-5%, voters want California-based operators (as opposed to out-of-state operators) in charge of the gaming operations.  This number climbs to 76-3% when California operators are compared to off-shore companies.

– 76% of Californians believe California’s trusted gaming partners – those already licensed in the state – should be the ones eligible to operate online poker as opposed to 13% who believe the process should be open to any company.

– Perhaps most significantly, 84% of voters want California to regulate online poker as opposed to nationalized online gaming.

Correa’s SB 40 is predicated upon three key principles:

1. Create a long-term revenue stream for California.
2. Ensure that the jobs created from online poker revenues become California jobs.
3. There must be appropriate regulations to ensure that kids can’t play and those who are eligible and do play, do so without fear of fraud or identity theft.

With such strong public support and the governor and the Legislature eager for new sources of revenue, you’d think it would be a no-brainer for our elected officials in Sacramento to support SB 40 to regulate online poker.

Alas, things in Sacramento are never that simple as there are currently two online gambling bills: the aforementioned SB 40 by Sen. Correa and SB 45 authored by Sen. Rod Wright.

If public opinion is important – and if you heard any part of the governor’s State of the State you’ll know it is (and, as a pollster, I sure hope it is) — then the Legislature and governor should get behind SB 40.  Voters support Correa’s vision for online poker and see it as a way to keep California jobs and revenues in the state.

How many jobs, how much revenue are we talking about?  According to former California Finance Director Tim Gage, online poker could generate $1 billion over the next decade and create 1,100 new jobs in a variety of industry sectors.

News reports indicate Gov. Brown is open to Internet gambling. “I don’t think it can be stopped,” Brown said last year. “If it can’t be, then there ought to be some way that the state can derive some tax revenue from that.”

The Correa bill would ensure that the benefits of regulated online poker remain in California helping to create jobs and balance the state budget.  Even better, voters like its provisions.

Ben Tulchin is founder and president of Tulchin Research, a polling and strategic consulting firm in San Francisco.

Excloo: Long-Lost “Apocalypse Brown” Tape Found

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On the bitter cold Friday night of March 28, 1980, outside the State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, the famed film director Francis Ford Coppola produced a 30-minute TV infomercial that effectively ended California Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign for president.

For Brown, the production was a hideously embarrassing political disaster. It not only crashed his Democratic primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter, but also reinforced his Governor Moonbeam reputation and marked the start of a decade-long decline in his once-meteoric political fortunes.

Titled “The Shape of Things to Come,” the bizarre half-hour show was seen only by Wisconsin viewers who happened to tune in to the statewide broadcast, a pot-hazed crowd of 3,000 who showed for the event and a small group of political reporters who panned it the next day.

Dubbed “Apocalypse Brown,” after Coppola’s Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now,” the program has never been seen by most Californians, including even some of Brown’s closest associates.

Now Calbuzz has obtained one of the few known, converted-to-digital copies of the broadcast.

As a video artifact, the show offers both an extraordinary snapshot of a 41-year old, second-term Gov. Brown, and an intriguing glimpse of the times and culture that provided the backdrop for the rapid arc of success and failure that defined Act I of his long career in politics.

Despite our utter technological ineptitude and extraordinary cheapness,  we’ve found a way to make it available for the next 10 days on a file sharing site to any of our loyal readers with the patience to download it. Trust us, it’s well worth the 36 few minutes the process will take you. You can find it here.

We got our DVD copy from TV consultant and Calbuzzer Peter Shaplen, a freelance network news producer who now teaches video journalism at the Art Institute of San Francisco. At the time, he was covering Brown’s campaign as an ABC News producer. As Shaplen recalls:

The governor and I got into a heated argument the following day aboard the campaign plane. He maintained the audience would see beyond the technology snafu and hear his message, respond and vote for him.  I suggested that the audience was so busy laughing at the failure of any reasonable communication that it was impossible to listen and respond.

A Francis Ford Coppola Production: Using — or misusing — the technique of  chroma key compositing,  Coppola  projected impressionistic images both on a big screen behind Brown, which was flapping in the strong wind, and in the simultaneous TV broadcast.

The signature moment of the infomercial comes about 11 minutes into it with the sudden appearance over Brown’s right shoulder of an astronaut, clad only in white boxer shorts, doing somersaults, flips and other gymnastic moves inside a space capsule while in a weightless state.

Just. Plain. Weird.

Things were going badly well before that, however.

Right before the broadcast begins, a voice from the crowd says, “America has lost its environmental ethic and also Wisconsin doesn’t grow enough sinsemilla.”

Then the titles go up and someone types on a dateline, which is misspelled “Madisno, Wisci”  before being corrected; next an utterly grim looking Brown walks to the stage, wearing a serious trench coat apparently a size too big, and starts orating into a sound system that isn’t working.

“We can’t hear,” a few people yell, whereupon Brown is given a hand-held mic and ad libs: “Even the technology of this age needs some human assistance.”

Not long after, the stage lights go out for a while, as seemingly random images – a steel mill, a rural cabin, an old guy shucking wheat – appear behind Brown, while quadrants of his head mysteriously keep dissolving into gaping gashes of flickering black and white.

How the deal went down: Just three weeks before, Brown had appointed the 40-year Coppola, who’d by then won an Academy Award and produced, directed and written the first two “Godfather” movies, to the state Arts Commission.

Brown’s campaign against a Democratic president never really took off – not least because the late Sen. Edward Kennedy was also challenging the incumbent – but Coppola was doing his bit to help his political patron. The journalist Doug Moe years later reconstructed the event:

Brown felt the April 1 primary in Wisconsin — a state often partial to mavericks — held his last best hope. Coppola produced a few TV spots for Brown that ran in Wisconsin. Then, with primary day fast approaching and funds running low, Coppola suggested the Brown campaign attempt something radical.

The decision was made to have Coppola produce a live half-hour show that would air statewide on March 28, the Friday night before the April 1 Tuesday primary. That Coppola knew little about the technology of live television broadcasting — and less about political campaigns — was apparently of small concern.

The director arrived in Madison on Wednesday, March 26, some 48 hours before the scheduled live telecast, accompanied by an entourage of family and friends. Madison-based media writer Tim Onosko covered Coppola’s Madison visit for the Village Voice out of New York City. That first day, Onosko asked Coppola’s brother, August, what he felt his sibling had in mind for Friday night.

“If Picasso were to paint a picture,” August Coppola said, “then donate it to a cause, that would be his way of contributing. Francis will create a piece of his own, and this will be his contribution.” Wednesday night, Coppola made an appearance at Madison West High School and spoke about what had brought him to town…

“We’ll center ourselves by the Capitol building,” Coppola told his West High audience. “We’ll put up this immense television set and we’re going to go on TV live with the governor making a statement that he wants to make. I’ll be in a truck where I can make a live mix, making any combination of things … we’ll decorate the dome and make it very beautiful; of course, it’s a beautiful building anyway.”

The show would be titled “The Shape of Things to Come,” taken from an H. G. Wells story about a society undone by war and reborn through technology. The new technology behind the Jerry Brown half-hour from Madison was called chroma key, and it was being developed at Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios in California. It was a technique of blending images on screen by removing color from one image, rendering it transparent and revealing another image behind it.

But as Coppola told his West High audience that night: “I have no experience at this kind of thing. One reason I’m so excited about doing this little piece is that it’s live television. I get to say ‘cut’ and ‘dissolve’ and if I screw up it’s right there; everybody knows it.”

Indeed.

The Brown manifesto. The following Tuesday, Brown won only 15 percent of the primary vote and dropped out of the race. But the 25-minute speech he delivered during the program, overshadowed by the technical debacle, was framed by many of the ideas and attitudes he still holds – and a few he long ago dumped on the Krusty ash bin of history:

1-Paddle to the right, paddle to the left: Brown’s commentary on global and national political economics, the absolutely humorless tone of which is at odds with the counter-culture crowd on hand, is a case study of how he combines conservative and liberal views in his politics.

His theme was rejuvenating America’s economy, then beset by a crippling combination of high inflation, skyrocketing energy prices and widespread unemployment. He proposed a Japan-like “new economic order,” led by government but including both business and organized labor, that would rebuild the nation’s manufacturing capacity.

“A call to arms, not for war, but for peace – we can re-industrialize this country,” he said.

Among the left-liberal elements of this policy: a “coupon rationing method” for gasoline; a “ban on import of foreign oil by private companies” in favor of a government-run “U.S. Oil Buying Authority,” and new mandatory conservation policies to curtail “profligate, scandalous, unnecessary” energy consumption.

At the same, however, he sounded fiscally conservative themes: stop the government “printing press” of inflationary monetary policy; “balance the budget” by ending “fiscal gimmickry, borrowing from the future (and) huge deficits.” He also called for private-public sector cooperation to sell “re-industrialization bonds (and to) double research efforts into information technologies.”

2-The value of service: Brown’s remarks about himself and his reasons for pursuing elected office echo across three decades.

He recounted growing up in a household dominated by the career of his father, the late Gov. Pat Brown, and his revulsion at what he considered the demeaning nature of much political interaction – “the political language we hear is debased.” He said this led him to his time in the Jesuit seminary.

“I didn’t like politics…I wanted to find God,” he said, an experience that resulted in “development (of) a commitment to be of service.” Railing against “consumerism,” he said that as president he would manifest this idea, which remains a central thread of his politics today, by creating a “domestic Peace Corps” to channel young people into “voluntary service.”

3-The vision thing: Brown’s 1980 speech is also notable for how much it foresees mega economic and political trends that were just then forming.

Speaking of how we all live in “a very small global village,” for example, he foresaw globalization and trade policies a generation into the future, calling for a “North American Economic Community” including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and enthusiastically describing the possibilities of “co-generation, solar, photo-voltaic” energy sources, as well as the need for “mass transit, bullet trains, fuel efficient cars.”

Also included in the speech are seeds of others arguments he makes in the current race for governor, sometimes in almost the same words:

“I have the skill, the know-how, the commitment,” for high office, he said at one point; when a woman asked him what he will do to assure the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, he presaged his get-them-all-in-a-room plan for solving the current budget deficit: “I’ll bring recalcitrant legislators to Washington and keep them there until they change their mind.”

Somewhat awkwardly, Brown concluded his remarks by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – without inviting the crowd to join him. Then he left the stage, unaware that the technical meltdown of the program within a few hours would lead to widespread mockery of the event. Said Shaplen:

My impression was (and remains) that much of what the governor said was well phrased and at times prospective.  But the show reinforced audience stereotypes that he was a wild, untamed Californian unsuited for Washington.

You read the percentages down, not across

Giants fans for Jerry; Rangers fans for Meg: Our friend SF pollster Ben Tulchin came up with some fun data in a survey of 700 likely voters Oct. 25-27 wherein he found Jerry Brown leading Meg Whitman 45-37% and Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina 48-40%.

But the much more interesting data were in the crosstabs with Ben’s findings on the SF Giants and Texas Rangers. Phil Matier and Andy Ross at the SF Chronicle had this first, but thanks to the geniuses managing the Hearst Chron, their article isn’t available online until Tuesday because it’s stuck behind the Chronicle Firewall Designed to Make You Buy Their Dying Newspaper. Which is fine, because M&R screwed up the story by misreporting the crosstabs.

Here’s what Tulchin found: California voters are rooting for the Giants over the Rangers 53-15%; Giants fans support Brown over Whitman 56-32% while Rangers fans support Whitman 51-29%. Giants fans also support Babara Boxer over Carly Fiorina and they oppose Prop. 23 (the measure to undo California’s climate-change law) while Rangers fans support Fiorina and Prop. 23.

The Boyz read the crosstabs (and Ben’s memo) wrong, reporting that Brown supporters favor the Giants 56-29% while Whitman supporters favor the Rangers 51-31%. (That was wrong, too: if you were going to misread the chart properly (!) you’d have it 51-32%).

UPDATE 11/1 12:15 pm: At our request, Tulchin ran a crosstab looking at how the supporters of various candidates are rooting in the World Series (which is what M&R thought they were reporting). Turns out Brown voters are for the Giants over the Rangers 65-10% while Whitman voters are for the Giants by a smaller margin, 47-22%.  Boxer voters favor the Giants over the Rangers 65-10% while Fiorina voters back the Giants 44-22%.

Bottom line: Go Giants!

CapWeek Kudos; Whores v Klutzes; Lou’s Illegals

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Capitol Weekly preserves integrity: HT  to Anthony York of Capitol Weekly for taking a pass on a survey, done by Orange County Republican pollster Adam Probolsky, that York had intended to release through his respected web site. Turns out the Democratic pollster he had paired with Probolsky – Ben Tulchin of San Francisco, — had significant methodological problems with Probolsky’s survey and York didn’t want to risk his site’s good name with a bad poll.

While just about every pollster in the known universe has recently found the race with Jerry Brown up 5 or more points over Meg Whitman, Probolsky turned in a survey with a virtual dead heat: Brown 41% and Whitman 39%. The survey was taken Sept. 30-Oct 4 among 752 registered voters.

“We wanted a bipartisan poll but we didn’t have bipartisan sign-off,” said York. “This is Adam’s poll. They (Tulchin and Probolsky) couldn’t agree, so we didn’t want to put it out.”

Said Tulchin: “The results that Adam found were based on a sample that I felt was too conservative and too Caucasian and did not accurately represent a statewide sample.   As a result, I could not endorse the poll, so Adam decided to release it on his own.”

What particularly bothered Tulchin was not Probolsky’s projection of a 54.7% turnout, which Ben thought was “a bit conservative but not beyond the realm of possibility.” Rather, the survey under-represents Latinos and blacks, with just  12.8% Latino voters and 2.9% black, instead of 14-15% Latinos and at least 4% blacks, as expected.

“These are critical demographic groups,” Tulchin said.  “To undercount them in a survey has a direct impact on the poll results for the governor’s race.” Probolsky’s poll, he added, with a more conservative and Caucasian turnout model, resembled a Whitman campaign poll “that showed Brown with a slight lead and Gloria Allred with a 92% name ID, which is not very credible.”

As if to prove the point, guess who sent around the Probolsky poll to reporters on Thursday? And thank you for that, Ms. Pompei.

PS: In earlier versions of this post we had a picture of the wrong Anthony York up. Sorry for our stupid misgoogletake.

Gandalf vs. Technology, Round 32: Confronted with the complex and sophisticated 21st century challenge of hanging up the phone, Jerry Brown has failed miserably, the estimable Seema Mehta is reporting Thursday night, thus  setting off another kerfuffle in the governor’s race.

The 72-year old — and-getting-older-by-the-minute — Democratic nominee appears to have left a voicemail message at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Protective League last month, expressing frustration that the cop group planned to endorse eMeg after Krusty refused to exempt law enforcement from his call for reforming public employee pension plans — this after Ms. I’ll-tackle-the-status-quo agreed to enable the police union’s rules-are-different-for-us demands.

Whereupon Brown, the chief law enforcement official of the most populous state in the union, proved unequal to the task of HANGING UP THE TELEPHONE, thereby managing to leave on the cop union’s voice recorder the full, unadulterated contents of an ensuing, full and frank discussion of the political implications of the matter, during which one of Jerry Kid’s referred to eMeg as a “whore.”

No doubt, they meant it in the nicest possible way.

At press time, Team Brown’s Steve Glazer was apologizing profusely to Herself and the usual “anyone who may have been offended” suspects, while the volcanic Sarah Pompei  of Team Whitman was declaring the sexist slur “unforgivable and despicable.” Film at 11.

Next up: Jerry tries to navigate indoor plumbing.

Must read of the week: No word yet if the Legions of eMeg Communications Corps has turned to the task of e-blast, multiple platform dissemination of the cover story in the upcoming issue of The Nation, but if they haven’t, they really should.

In one of the toughest investigative takedowns in memory of a public figure who really had it coming, Isabel Macdonald rips the phony mask of self-righteousness from the immigrant-bashing Lou Dobbs, late of CNN, and in the process makes Our Meg look like a total piker in the employer of undocumented workers category.

Dobbs, who made himself rich and famous by blathering race-baiting demagoguery on cable TV, for quite some time has been living large in two huge and luxurious estates which support the major jones that his 22-year old daughter has for champion show jumper horses.

Turns out his truly sweet set-up is sustained by the labor of illegal immigrants, whom he never tired of bashing on his now-canceled program of self-described “fearless reporting and commentary.” In a piece aptly, if not subtly, titled “Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite,” Macdonald writes:

But with his relentless diatribes against “illegals” and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper…

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that “the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!”

Schadenfreude – sometimes it’s better than sex.

Update: Dobbs vs. Macdonald on MSNBC.

Testing 1, 2, 3: Nate Silver, the NYT’s boy genius of political polling and  statistical computational matters, has reset the betting line in his 538 blog and now makes Jerry Brown a 3-to-1 favorite to win the California governorship.

Written (or, far more likely, edited) into the most genteel Timespeak,  Silver’s item on the race notes that Krusty has become a 75 percent favorite after the column pegged him as the underdog just two weeks ago, and credits Nicky-gate as the reason for the switch:

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

Amid all the recent fuss about I-9′s and mileage payments for maids, we’d almost forgotten about last week’s quickly-retracted promise by eMeg to take a lie detector test to back up her story, but we’re glad Nate raised it since it resurfaced one of  our all-time favorite political quotes (h/t Bill Carrick).

Fritz Hollings, the ex-governor and former long-serving Senator from South Carolina, was once challenged by a soon-to-be-vanquished campaign rival to take a drug test. To which the famously blunt-spoken Hollings instantly replied: “I’ll take a drug test if you take an IQ test.”

Corporations are people too: Mega-kudos to Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times for digging out a truly outrageous $30 million sweetheart tax break deal in the Legislature’s compromise budget plan, a reeking piece of rancid fish festering deep inside the secretly negotiated spending plan for the financial benefit of one, and only one, rich and politically influential family.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.

The tax break was inserted into the draft state spending plan during closed-door negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders, said people close to the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the deal-making.

While Krusty is working overtime to make the world safe for children’s bouncy houses and eMeg is trembling with fury about a few poor people who may have dared to leave the state while on welfare, we’re still waiting for the howls of outrage from either one of them over this single interest rip-off for one of California’s best-connected families.

Breaking: Dolan busts them on another one.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: On the list of Citizen Kane-wannabes who thought it would be fun to own a newspaper, there is tremendous competition for the title of biggest chucklehead, but it’s tough to top the utter idiocy of Chicago greedhead Sam Zell, who’s still in the process of ruining a whole batch of them, as David Carr reports in painful detail.

New Polls: Poizner Inching Up, Tom Beating Carly

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

It’s not much to bank on, but Steve “The Commish” Poizner appears to have knocked eMeg Whitman down below 50% of the vote in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, according to a new public poll.

Following surveys in March from the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California, both of which showed Whitman with better than 60% of the vote, a public poll by Capitol Weekly – this time with Republican and Democratic pollsters collaborating – finds eMeg leading The Commish 47-to-19%.

In addition, the Capitol Weekly survey found Tom Campbell solidly leading the GOP race for U.S. Senate, with 31% of the vote, ahead of Hurricane Carly Fiorina at 17% and Chuck DeVore, R-Stonehenge, at 14%, by far the strongest showing to date by the Orange County legislator.

“The good news for Jerry (Brown) is that Meg’s going to have to sweat this out,” said Ben Tulchin, the Democratic consultant on the poll. “In the Senate race. Fiorina is going to have to start bashing Campbell – she’s running out of time.”

There’s also a Rasmussen Poll – which Calbuzz dislikes because they do robo-calling and don’t disclose their methods – that shows Democrat Crusty the General Brown running ahead of eMeg in a November contest. More intriguing was Rasmussen’s finding that seven in 10 voters like Brown’s idea for three-way pre-primary debates with Whitman and Poizner.

Now, those numbers in the GOP governor’s race might not be much to brag on. But that didn’t stop Team Poizner Communications Director Jarrod Agen:

“Meg Whitman’s candidacy was always like one of those French soufflés one of her private chefs would cook up on her private jet — full of expensive air and destined to deflate.  All of Meg’s Goldman Sachs riches can’t convince California Republicans that we need a Barbara Boxer supporter as our nominee.  The numbers are moving as we expected, which means in this year’s general election Republicans will finally get a chance to vote for a Republican for Governor.”

The Whitman people – claiming that their internal polling has the race 55-24% for eMeg — smell desperation wafting out of the Poizner camp.

“In February, Steve Poizner had a favorable rating of only 15% and an unfavorable rating of 10%. Now, Steve Poizner’s favorable to unfavorable rating is 26% to 30%. For every one Republican voter that became positive to Steve Poizner two Republicans became negative,” wrote Whitman pollster John McLaughlin in a survey analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that Republican primary voters personally like Meg Whitman and when they get to know Poizner, they just dislike him. For that reason alone winning the Republican primary for Steve Poizner is hopeless and pointless,” McLaughlin said.

Conservative pollster Adam Probolsky surveyed 751  registered voters with a past history of voting April 10-13. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7%. Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin of San Francisco consulted on the survey, ensuring a partisan balance.

While the survey – based on a projected June primary electorate — did not include November match-ups, the pollsters did ask this question:

“Thinking about the economy and jobs, which candidate for Governor do you think would do the best job?”  Interestingly, Brown – a career politician — pulled 32.5%, compared to 30.5% for Whitman and 9.2% for Poizner – both of them Silicon Valley business veterans.

Predictably, 53% of the Democrats gave Brown the edge on the economy and jobs, compared to 14% for Whitman and 4% for Poizner. Among Republicans it was 54% for Whitman, 18% of Poizner and 7% for Brown.

But among independents and others it was 29% for Brown, 25% for Whitman and 6% for Poizner suggesting that — for whatever reason — when party is not a factor, voters appear to trust Brown more than the two business executives on the economy and jobs. At least for now.

Said Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford, with a touch of glee:  “There’s only one candidate in the race who’s actually guided the state through a recessionary period and who, in eight years, helped create 1.9 million jobs.”

Sifting the Detritus of the CA Dem Convention

Monday, April 19th, 2010

It’s a measure of the small bore political stakes of the California Democratic Party convention that the weekend’s only drama played out over an inconclusive fight for the party’s endorsement in an internecine contest for lieutenant governor — a conflict over a second-tier office that has far more to do with personalities than policy.

During a two-day convention when one officeholder after another pleaded with 3,000 activists to match the passion of the conservative Tea Party movement in the 2010 campaign, the convention remained a mostly sedate affair, with delegates wistfully recalling the sense of purpose in President Obama’s historic 2008 victory, while trying to get excited about candidates for insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, ferhevensakes.

“At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party (movement)” Senator Barbara Boxer candidly told reporters, “and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm.”

This just in: in the long-awaited balloting in the Lite Gov’s race, S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom out-polled L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn, 52-to-42. According to a furious exchange of late-night spinning memos eblasted by the two camps, this was either a great victory for Hahn, for denying her rival the 60 percent needed for the endorsement, or a key tactical win for Newsom, who skunked his foe in her own back yard.

Zzzzzzz.

As a practical matter, the question of how much energy and enthusiasm the Dems can muster  — in a non-presidential election year, when the political winds now strongly favor Republicans, when the Donkey Ticket is led by two old war horses, aged 69 and 72, and when the GOP’s statewide entry is led by an Empire Strikes Back campaign bristling with more money than God -– will be a major factor in determining the size and make-up of the November electorate.

When handlers for Jerry Brown are only half-joking in telling reporters the party’s presumptive nominee for governor just needs to win by one vote, the question of turnout, and whether Democrats can expand the size of their base to pick up a sizable chunk of younger and independent voters, is crucial.

And you have to wonder how forward-thinking comprehensive a strategy the Democrats have for doing so, when party chairman John Burton says he thinks that a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana will be the key to motivating the under-30 crowd to come to the polls.

Brown insists he’s sanguine about his chances against Republican front-runner Meg Whitman, despite her surge in the polls and her clear intent to recycle many of the millions she pocketed from shady dealings at Goldman Sachs and other high-end investments. And, on one level at least, his unruffled display of patience is a reminder that it’s still very, very early in the campaign season – “I only have to win on one day,” he told reporters Saturday.

But facing a likely foe who’s equipped to outspend him by orders of magnitude, Brown faces a stark choice between spending his own resources defending himself over the summer, when either Whitman or fellow zillionaire wannabe governor Steve Poizner will surely be bashing him daily on the airwaves, or hanging on to his pile until fall, when voters will be more engaged.

Brown must hope that at least one of the several Independent Expenditure committees that have popped up with promises to help him – but have so far shown a far greater ability to trash Whitman than to raise cash to beat her – will gain enough traction to mount a serious summer TV campaign to go after the GOP nominee and watch Brown’s back.

IE operatives in the Calbuzz orbit tell us they believe they’ll have the money in place and a plan of attack to mount a TV-radio-internet-bus stop-anywhere-you-frequent campaign that will find like-minded voters — especially independents — during the summer, giving Brown some breathing room to husband resources for the fall. We’ll see.

“The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor,” Brown told Calbuzz. But the rules have changed — and Brown knows it.

Paging Pamela Harriman: In the absence of heavyweight political skirmishes at the convention, the sharpest competition played out over who put on the best party.

Speaker John Perez and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg tossed the Best Bash for the Masses, with their Saturday afternoon free Taco Truck Throwdown with mobile catering from such favorite as  Calbi Fusion (whose pulled pork was good but hardly Mexican)  and El Principio (which served up a killer carnitas).  Friday’s elegant soiree thrown by the  California Correctional Peace Officers union, with salmon caviar and free booze,  captured top honors in the Intimate Setting Category.

But in the end, Calbuzz can report with complete immodesty, the most entertaining event was the Second Annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack’s Hack and Flack dinner at Café Pinot, where Brown Himself and heavyweight consultant Garry South got into a cage match battle over electoral strategy at one table, with LA political wheelhouse Donna Bojarsky and political analysts Sherry and Doug Jeffe in the mix. At another table Boxer strategist Rose Kapolcynski, Brown’s Steve Glazer, L.A. premier blogger Kevin Roderick and Laurel Canyon media meisters Julie Buckner and Celia Fischer all compared notes on the political landscape and the chocolate mouse gateau. Other Calbuzzers kicking around strategic insights included poll taker Ben Tulchin and his wife consultant Laurie Biejen,  Kaufman Campaigns’ Richard Stapler, plus reporters from the Chronicle, Media News, KQED and more, who dined on a choice of duo of beef, pan roasted Jidori chicken and Atlantic salmon.

Although Dr. H briefly considered hiring a couple of leg breakers to go after a couple of confirmed guests who were no shows (we know where you live) and one gate crasher, there were no injuries.

Paging Mr. Bartlett: Brown’s three best weird comments of the weekend:

1-“The menu is not the meal,” a big-think overview of where the governor’s race stands today. 2-“I believe in the  papal doctrine of subsidiarism,” a reference to his belief that government authority should be pushed back to locals from Sacramento. 3-”The sherpas will meet soon,” his proposal for a process of arranging debates between him and his Republican rivals.

We’re just sayin’: Can the Democratic party staff please arrange for Burton to have a makeover? The unbuttoned red safari shirt look makes him look like a cheesy Vegas weekend low-roller from Cleveland.