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Posts Tagged ‘change’



Friday Fishwrap: Jerry’s Secret Eyebrow Makeover

Friday, March 5th, 2010

When Calbuzz speaks: Back in August, our Division of Superficial Issues and Cosmetology made a strongly worded and brilliantly insightful argument that Jerry Brown needed to do something about his Sam Ervin-style eyebrows before voters started mistaking him for the 2000 Year Old Man.

Then, when we caught Crusty the General’s webcentric announcement of candidacy Tuesday, along with his later appearance on Larry King Live –  Voila! –- it was clear he had joined the ranks of candidates who understand the overweening importance of heeding the sage political advice of Calbuzz.

Trimmed, thinned and apparently lightly colored, Brown’s former albino porcupine look had been altered in a way that took 20 years off his face.  While Crusty was at pains to tell us he’d been “eating my veggies,” and later demonstrated his physical fitness for a parade of visitors to his Oakland headquarters , we think the single smartest cosmetic fix he could have made before jumping into the race was following the process  outlined in this You Tube video.

That’s change we can believe in.

Enough to make a hog puke: Nice scooplet by Flash Fleischman beating Team Whitman to the punch on “The Steve Shuffle,” their latest web hit on Poizner, a minor gem, Despite our admiration for the design, production and messaging prowess that went into making it, however, eMeg’s cheap shot at The Commish on Prop 13 is revolting.

Let’s recap: In 2000, Poizner joined a horde of good government pols – led by former Gov. Pete Wilson, who now happens to be Whitman’s campaign chairman – and virtually every CEO and big name in tech in backing Prop. 39, which lowered the vote threshold, from two-thirds to 55 percent, for approval of school bonds. The 53 percent majority of Californians who passed the thing also appeared to agree it was a damned fine idea.

And where was Whitman on the matter? Courageously staking out the position against that she now purports to defend? No, while her Silicon Valley colleagues were taking a stand on behalf of school kids and parents, eMeg was just too damn busy and oh-so-important to even vote on it -  no, more, to even register to be eligible to vote on it, that’s where.

It’s one thing to whack a foe when you have an honest disagreement with them on an issue; it’s quite another to totally cheap shot a rival for making a principled stand, when you were completely clueless and couldn’t be bothered, to get engaged on the policy issue at hand.

UPDATE: No sooner had we posted this when Poizner, acting like a chickenlivered weenie, backed away from his support of the measure to which he’d given $200,000. Sheesh.

And another thing: While eMeg’s eagerness to fork out zillions  to every media consultant, buyer and TV station in the universe automatically makes her formidable in the campaign for governor, it also puts her at risk for being ju-jitsued on the issue of how she spends her money.

The rationale for Whitman’s candidacy is that she’s not a politician, and what supposedly makes her shiny and special is that she brings a new perspective to bad old politics-as-usual. But  since she launched her first ad, eMeg has acted exactly like every candidate in history. By the time she’s burned through her $150 million or whatever she plans to spend, and voters’ eyeballs are seared by her endless sun storm of TV spots, it’s easy to imagine that she’ll be perceived as  just another political hack.

Our national Anthem: While the story of Blue Cross/Anthem’s notorious 39 percent rate increases on Californians who buy their own health insurance has reached critical mass as a national scandal, the one guy in the state you’d figure would have plenty to say about it has been oddly reticent.

Insurance Commissioner Poizner, who – as his title may suggest – actually has some jurisdiction over insurance, has been all but AWOL in the furor over the greed head rate increases. Sure the Commish quietly initiated a small-bore investigation of Anthem’s delays in paying claims, process violations that preceded the current high-end controversy, and earlier wrote a lame-o op-ed for USA Today on health reform in which one of his big beefs was that taxes on insurance companies might be increased. Poor them.

Unlike campaign subjects like the debate over debates, on which Team Poizner has expended endless words, health insurance is actually something people care about in the real world, and it’s an abiding mystery why he isn’t out there pounding on this issue day after day after day.

Must reads of the week: Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times produced a helluva fine piece of American journalism in probing the history of newly anointed Speaker John Perez doing the bidding of rich folks and special interests, a timely investigation that offers a different perspective on Mr. Speaker’s favored up-by-his-bootstraps narrative . . . Amid the ongoing Oprah-driven canonization of Roger Ebert, Will Leitch at Dead Spin offered a wonderfully moving piece on why the guy actually deserves it . . . The Chronicle’s recent over-the-top reprise of  Crusty’s Moonbeam Factor strike us as the Bright Idea of some Yuppie-era editor who never got over missing out on the 60’s, but Editorial Page High Sheriff John Diaz meanwhile did a nice bit of work with his long view take on Brown getting into the race, which hands down wins the Kicker of the Week award: It appears that voters will have a choice in November between a Democrat they know all too well and a Republican they hardly know at all. . . . Ever wonder who’s putting up the dough to try to take out AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse gas emissions law? Check out this post by RL Miller at Daily Kos.

How Obama Punted Away Real Health Reform

Monday, December 21st, 2009

ObamaHealthCareUpdate: Today’s Calbuzzer comments reflect a contentious debate raging in the blogosphere about the virtues, or lack thereof, of the Senate bill. While Calbuzz is triangulating like crazy – it’s a lousy bill but pass it anyway ‘cuz somethin’s better than nothin’ – others are whacking deep into the weeds on this.

If you care to join them, here’s a guide to the best arguments string: Jane Hamsher, founder of Fire Dog Lake, posted 10 reasons why the Senate bill should be killed, and was promptly attacked by the Washpost’s Ezra Klein,world’s leading authority on practically everything. Then Jon Walker of FDL attacked Klein’s attack, and we give the final world to Nate Silver,the smartest person in the world, who attacked Walker’s attack of Klein’s attack of Hamsher.

———-

In a case of life imitating art, comic blogger Andy Borowitz provided the most accurate and trenchant commentary about the Democrat’s misadventure on health care reform, as he offered a look at  details of his own, newly unveiled,  “CompromiseCare™” program“:

– Under CompromiseCare™, people with no coverage will be allowed to keep their current plan.
– Medicare will be extended to 55-year-olds as soon as they turn 65…
– A patient will be considered “pre-existing” if he or she already exists…
– You’ll be free to choose between medications and heating fuel…
– You will be entitled to natural remedies, such as death
.

And so on. The Borowitz Plan would be a riot if it didn’t come to so close to the truth.

The sad fact is that Barack Obama’s wimp-out on his signature issue has resulted in a legislative end game defined by a default bill in the Senate that’s godawful. Riddled with half-measures, the bill is framed and defined by the institutionalized transfer of hundreds of billions of public dollars to the same, rapacious private insurance industry that shaped the dysfunctional system supposedly being transformed.

Even its worthwhile nods to reform – efforts to end the industry’s disgraceful practices on pre-existing conditions, rescissions and lifetime benefit caps – are largely dependent upon regulatory enforcement by the states, woefully over-matched by the legal firepower of insurance companies, as David Dayen  argues most persuasively at Fire Dog Lake.

So now, Obama will be left holding the bag on weak, compromise legislation repellent to Democratic advocates on the left and Republican opponents on the right.

Worse, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that less than one-third of Americans say that the stinky cheese that Obama now supports as “reform” is a good idea – a number that has steadily eroded since he jettisoned his support for the public option. Worse, more people, by 44-41%, say it would be better to do nothing than to pass the measures before Congress.

Yes we can!bidensmirk

The strongest argument for nose-holding passage of the health bill in its current form is made in a NYT op-ed by Vice President Joe Biden. But Biden’s take-whatever-we-can-get-and-declare-victory stance avoids the hard fact that the White House made one fundamental strategic error, followed by a series of tactical blunders.

Strategically, Mr. Smartypants Rahm Emanuel and the geniuses in the White House political shop should have counted noses at the start to determine if there was a threshold of support for a public option – which also should have called something more politically palatable, like “health insurance competition” or “consumer choice” – or an expansion of Medicare. If they couldn’t see a way to put the votes together, they should have taken on some other signature issue — jobs would have been a good one.

Instead:

–Obama frittered away his mandate. After stomping John McCain and leading the way to Democratic domination of both houses of congress, he retreated to a passive posture in which he uttered Yoda-like platitudes about reform while letting the food fight in congress shape the legislation.

–Obama quickly signaled the special interests were still in charge. About the only substantive moves by the White House were a) to dump, before they even got started, the progressive’s goal of a single payer system and b) to break his campaign promise of transparency by cutting an early, backroom deal to minimize the impact of any bill on the pharmaceutical industry.

–Obama shined on his political base in the name of pursuing “bipartisan” harmony with people whose only interest was sticking it to him. Back in August, when Obama began backing away from support for a public option, we warned that he was setting himself up for failure with his fetish Fairy_largefor fairy tale bipartisanship.

In the political fight of his life, Obama has been putting his energy and emphasis almost exclusively on the can’t-we-all-just-get along aspect of his message, in a desperate bid to pass a bill – any bill – that he can spin as an alleged victory, even if represents right-center policies and politics.

With Democrats in the rare position of controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, however, he needs to stop singing kumbaya and start busting some heads by fighting fiercely for the populist – and, yes, partisan – principles that led millions to support the progressive promises of his campaign. And that means taking on, not just the other party, but some of the obstructionist Senators in his own party…

Obama’s we’re-all-in-it-together action, in place of a principled fight, has simultaneously succeeded in emboldening his Republican enemies and alienating his progressive base, in the name of imaginary bipartisanship and placating the self-absorbed Lieberman-Nelson-Snowe “centrist” axis, whose members keep dumping on him from a great height for his trouble.

What’s even more troubling is the suspicion that Obama’s kumbaya strategy was timid by design, aimed at avoiding any effort to make real change in the status quo, viewing process as more important than  policy. As Rep. Anthony Wiener, the most articulate  champion of substantive health reform, told Politico:

This has been a fairly transactional presidency, and the president did nothing to insulate himself from the compromises — which were inevitable — by making it clear at the outset what his values were on some of these important issues. While being transactional may help you get through the days in Washington and get things on the scoreboard, it creates a weird disconnect that most people in the country don’t know what you want and don’t feel they should rally to your side.

In a pair of must-read pieces, here and here, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald makes the case that, after the massive Wall Street bail-outs, abdicating to Goldman Sachs and wimping out on credit card reform, Obama with health care has now fully revealed hiobamapostermself as a triangulating advocate of corporate power,  his soaring populist rhetoric be damned.

As was painfully predictable all along, the final bill will not have any form of public option, nor will it include the wildly popular expansion of Medicare coverage. Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this — the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional “centrists.”

Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives. The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start — the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

So whether by incompetence or design, the White House has left health reform advocates (boy is Ted Kennedy missed) with little choice but to support badly flawed legislation, an argument summed up in Biden’s op-ed: “I share the frustration of other progressives that the Senate bill does not include a public option. But I’ve been around a long time, and I know that in Washington big changes never emerge in perfect form.”

Not exactly change we can believe in.

Three Key Questions About the Governor’s Race

Monday, December 7th, 2009

reepcollageSix months before California voters select the major party candidates for governor, the basic shape of the race has become clear, with Jerry Brown having cleared the field of Democratic rivals and Meg Whitman’s early spending establishing her as the Republican favorite.

jerryheadshotIn both the Field Poll and the LA Times/USC survey, eMeg leads among the Republicans from 2-8 points over Tom Campbell, with Steve Poizner in third, a single digit presence in the race.

Within that framework, Calbuzz sees three key questions, the answers to which will largely determine if the fundamental dynamics change significantly between now and June 7:

1. Will Steve Poizner spend serious money in the next 60 days to establish himself as a legitimate rival to Whitman?
2. Will Jerry Brown begin to assemble a serious and professional 21st Century campaign team or will he continue to drift along like a leaf in a Lao Tzu parable?
3. How will change be defined in 2010? Who will claim the mantle of change and who will be saddled with the status quo?

Let’s break it down:

Poizner: Threat or Menace? As we noted last week eMeg’s willingness to toss big money on the table a year before the primary voting has started to  create a perception that she is the presumptive Republican nominee. Latest example: although it’s still way early, the Democratic Governor’s Association last week identified Whitman as one of its five top GOP targets for 2010 and has committed at least $1 million to defeating her.

While we have great admiration for Tom Campbell’s intelligence and commitment to public service, at this point, we still don’t see a way for him to pull together the resources needed to make a serious run at mega-bucks Meg. That leaves Poizner, whose personal fortune provides him the table stakes needed in this rich-blood race, potentially positioned to emerge as a conservative foil to Whitman.

tort-hare

Team Poizner eblasted a memo last week trying to calm supporters fretting that The Commish has already waited too long to get into the game; on one level, Camp Steve’s people are right, of course, that the calendar shows it’s still very early and there’s plenty of time to make up last ground. At the same time, however, Whitman’s demonstrated willingness to spend Whatever It Takes means it’ll cost major bucks just to get even with the name ID she’s already bought, let alone cruise by her by sharpening contrasts in ways that convince conservative GOP primary voters.

In other words, by waiting…and waiting…to throw at least a couple million into the pot, Poizner runs the risk of falling out of striking distance and never being able to catch up.

muhammad-ali-listonAn important corollary of this question: Does eMeg have a glass jaw? Whitman so far has seemed terrified to show up for tough duty –- making herself accessible to California reporters and engaging her rivals in face-to-face debates — so she remains an unproven commodity in being able to handle the (HT to Jack Kavanagh) rough and tumble of a campaign.

She’s headed back to Delaware this week to testify in a major lawsuit involving her tenure at eBay and it also remains to be seen whether her record as a business executive comes back to bite her the way former airlines executive Al Checchi’s did in 1998.

What’s next for Jerry? Campaign potholders, distributed door to door?   Bumper strips reading “This time he’ll get it right?” How about campaign photos posing with Linda Ronstadt next to the ’74 Plymouth?

Brown so far seems content to settle for ’80s-era campaign strategy and tactics, and determined to try to  ad lib and improvise this way back to the Horseshoe. He’s expressed contempt for political consultants and he’s a notorious tightwad.

As we’ve argued, however, it’s well past time for him to hire a cadre of political professionals to manage and focus his scattershot un-campaign for governor. True, he’s been successful to date in quietly raising several million while keeping a low profile; his big haul down in Bel-Air at the $32-million home of Sandy Gallin, former agent for the likes of Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson, in particular was “a huge success and a great launch for his effort down here,” as noted by organizer Andy Spahn, Steven Spielberg’s former political ramrod.

Still, even if Brown raises $20 million before the primary, that will barely match what Whitman as spent already. He simply can’t compete with her for money, so he needs to beat her on message and tight campaign organization, or she could bury him in paid media.

linda&jerryBrown has considerable strength among voters 50 and over and among minorities, especially Latinos, as the guy who put Cruz Reynoso on the Supreme Court and Mario Obledo in his cabinet, who marched with Caesar Chavez, signed the Agricultural Relations Act and dated the aforementioned Ms. Ronstadt all the way to South Africa.

While it would be short-sighted to underestimate Brown’s non-monetary assets, the widespread anger of voters towards elected officials, coupled with the, um, complexities of his own political record, create a treacherous landscape which will require strategic thinking and planning that goes well beyond his abiding belief in his own ability to wing it.

Who represents change? The numbers speak for themselves: More than two-thirds of voters think California is on the wrong track, the same number who think the governor is doing a lousy job, while the number of those who like the Legislature hovers barely above 10 percent.

Clearly people are disgusted with government and want change. But what kind of change, and who best represents it?

Wterminatorhitman is already banging Brown as a washed-up hack and vivid symbol of what’s wrong with the Sacramento political class. But will voters see her as what’s needed – a moderate Republican outsider from the private sector promising to reform the Capitol – after seven years of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed star turn in the same movie?

While it may be hard to portray iconclast Brown as behind the curve, how exactly does his ceaseless seeking of office — eight years as governor, former Secretary of State, Attorney General, Oakland Mayor, Democratic Party Chairman, three-time candidate for president and US Senate wannabe –- make the case that he’s just the guy to shake things up?

Poizner and Campbell have both put forward detailed and specific plans for addressing the state’s budget woes; putting aside the fiscal arguments on the merits, neither has come close to making a convincing political case that they’ll be able to implement their ideas.

Amid the chronic deficits, unshakeable political gridlock and the voter’s utter cynicism, nobody yet has offered a game-changing political and policy  formulation for leading California out of its historic decline. And that’s the biggest unanswered question of all.

Poizner Rant: A Pox on Calbuzz ‘Change’ Analysis

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

poiznerSince our recent analysis concluding there’s no true “change” candidate in the 2010 field of wannabe governors, administrators of the Calbuzz Shuttle Diplomacy and Professional Umpiring School have enjoyed several full and frank exchanges of views with candidates in the race. On Nov. 7, Tom Campbell had his say; today we provide free rant space to GOP rival and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

By Steve Poizner
Special to Calbuzz

As a dutiful reader of Calbuzz, I was perplexed by your recent assertion that there is no “change” candidate  left in the race for governor after the exit of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Throughout my career, I’ve been a leader in helping to bring change for the better, like working to transform the cell phone industry, helping pioneer the charter school movement, right sizing a statewide agency, and stopping a massive power grab by career politicians looking for longer control of Sacramento. Now I’m proposing bold, across-the-board tax cuts and a complete overhaul of our state’s welfare and Medi-Cal programs.

I’m not a celebrity or a career politician. And I’m no rookie. The current field for governor has all of those. I’m something different. I’m an engineer and an entrepreneur. I build things and I fix things. I’m a problem solver.

Calbuzz is right to challenge us candidates and they are right to cast doubt on our “change” rhetoric. Voters are cynical and they have heard this tune before, but let’s look at the facts.

Only one candidate is proposing to change our basic tax structure with bold, across the board tax cuts. That’s change and change for the better.

Only one candidate is proposing to change the spending culture of Sacramento with a top down review of every agency. I did it at the Department of Insurance and permanently reduced my operating expenses by nearly 15%. That’s change for the better.

Only one candidate will bring our welfare spending into line with the national average or better. We have 30% of welfare recipients and only 12% of population. That’s change for the better.

Only one candidate has stood in a public high school classroom and struggled to teach in a system that frustrates everyone, from students to parents to teachers. That’s change for the better.

Only one candidate understands what it’s like to start a business in one room witdarwinh one employee and grow it into a billion dollar company. I’ve seen how the government helps and how it hurts. I know what it takes to grow jobs in this state and I’ll be a governor on the side of my fellow job creators like no governor in our history. That’s change for the better.

Change, you bet. My brand of change is probably more conservative than some Calbuzz readers would like, but I’ve spoken out clearly on my positions and will continue to do so through the General Election.

The Calbuzz Primary Begins Today

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

patriotic_012002007One year from today, primary election voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, will choose their candidates for governor of California.

Seldom in California’s history has there been an election with stakes as high for the people of the state. A global recession, felt more acutely here than elsewhere in the nation, has crippled families and tax revenues alike, exposing for all to see the economic and political decay at the core of state government.

With about eight in 10 voters saying California is on the wrong track, the battered economy and political gridlock in Sacramento have combined to create a dark and turbulent atmosphere. Candidates who seek to lead the Golden State will be facing angry, frustrated, pitchfork-wielding voters.

The political unrest and budget meltdowns of recent years, among other things, have triggered a wave of reform efforts aimed at the Capitol unprecedented since the beginning of the last century.

Calls for a constitutional convention, demands for sweeping changes in taxation and the basic structure of government, plus efforts to pass initiatives that change the mechanics of governance all will roil the waters in 2010. That’s not to mention continuing fallout from the Proposition 8 gay marriage battle, conflicts over the embattled public schools and institutions of higher education, or concerns about California’s failing water and infrastructure systems.

Amid this treacherous landscape, candidates will face widespread skepticism about whether California is governable at all, and whether or not it really matters who is elected to succeed the failed Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At Calbuzz, we think it does matter: Governors put people in charge of huge agencies and departments and small bureaucracies, they appoint judges, manage relations with trading partners and neighbors, shape the budget and the legislative agenda, wield the blue pencil, rally the people and set the tone for civic discourse.

But if voters are unhappy with the trajectory of the state and demand “change,” what will that mean next year in California? In 2008, Barack Obama personified change – a radical shift from all things Bush-Cheney: easy to identify, easy to encapsulate.

But in 2010, in California, will change mean competence and common sense? Reform and realignment? Private sector values and principles? Will it mean a change in party or a generational shift or both? After Arnold, can another rich Republican outsider stand for change? Can a septuagenarian lifelong pol challenge the status quo?

We’ve been watching the candidates closely since launching Calbuzz a few months ago and offer this year-out scorecard as a handicappers’ guide to the meta-messages they’re pitching.

jerry_brown

DEMOCRATS

Jerry Brown: Common sense, for a change
(Or: I made all my mistakes the first time)

An All-World political gymnast, General Jerry is trying to invent a brand-new campaign trick by becoming both the youngest and oldest person to be elected governor of California.

Casting an uncharacteristically critical eye on parts of his 1975-82 record as governor (when he was labeled – unfairly – as Gov. Moonbeam), Brown argues that he’s older and wiser in terms of management skill and style, but still miles ahead of the curve in seeing the need for social and economic changes that he was mocked for advocating decades ago – like clean, green energy, for starters.

Brown’s biggest strengths remain his singular intelligence and ability to graft big ideas onto public policy; his greatest weakness is his well-earned reputation as a political chameleon willing to strike almost any stance on almost any issue that brings political benefit.

newsomlookright

Gavin Newsom: I tweet therefore I am.
(Or: We’re moving to the left, whether you like it or not)

Young, bright and attractive, Prince Gavin is positioning himself to run an Obama Lite campaign of generational change, promising new ideas, new approaches and new outcomes to old and intractable California problems. He’s also running the risk of fighting the last campaign war by casting Brown as Hillary to his reprised Obama.

Newsom has had a moderately successful term-and-a-half as San Francisco’s mayor, but it remains to be seen whether his shining City on the Hill portrayal of his record stands up to the scrutiny of a long campaign (here’s hoping his hometown paper provides some answers soon). And it’s an open question whether much of anything that happens in San Francisco translates to voters outside the Bay Area’s liberal Democratic precincts.

Newsom’s biggest strength is the energy and enthusiasm with which he reels off reams of sound-good, feel-good proposals for improving California’s quality of life – organic veggie gardens at City Hall!! – while his greatest weakness is his tendency to overweening arrogance, which he casually displayed by kissing off every Californian who disagreed with him on gay marriage.villaraigosa1

Antonio Villaraigosa: Si puedo – Yes I can
Or: (I’ll chase the governorship — unless I keep chasing skirts)

On paper, Tony V looks like a top contender for the Democratic nomination, with a strong base built on a pro-labor record and appeal to the ethnic pride of California’s emerging Latino majority. In the arena, however, he’s been looking more and more like he’s got a glass jaw, as his underwhelming re-election margin has been followed by a series of political and personal embarrassments.

Once seen as a rising star, Villaraigosa backed the wrong horse in the Democratic presidential race (as did Newsom), and then saw his standing with West Side liberals and unions decline as he seemed more interested in celebrity and self-aggrandizement than in the substance of governing and wrestling with L.A.’s tangled finances. Recent disclosures about a new fling with yet another pulchritudinous T.V. reporter have pushed him dangerously close to late-night comedy territory.

Villaraigosa’s biggest strength is his star-power potential to make history as a Latino governor who also repackages Democratic values for a green and digital age; his greatest weakness is the growing perception that he lacks the seriousness of purpose to be governor, or even the fuego en el vientre to try.

REPUBLICANS

megcrop1

Meg Whitman: A billionaire businesswoman rides to your rescue
(Or: Once I’m elected, everyone in Sacramento will do exactly what I say)

The latest in a string of successful private sector executives who’ve sought to start second careers at the top of the political ladder, Whitman made a bundle in her years at eBay, and is calculating that voters are so sick of the Sacramento status quo they’ll beseech her to bring business savvy to bear on straightening out state government.

So far, eMeg’s proved only that she can court favor with the national media and hire battalions of high-priced campaign consultants. But she hasn’t found much to say about California’s problems that go beyond Republican platitudes of the last three decades. Her aversion to mixing it up with media types, at least those with some understanding of the state’s problems, quickly became a campaign meme, but for now at least she seems smugly satisfied to stay aloof from the gritty give-and-take of authentic politics.

Calbuzz wants to know, for example, what makes Her Megness think her business career gives her the ability to handle an assemblyman from Turlock or somewhere who says, “Sure, I’ll vote for your budget, as soon as you give the community college in the district a new swimming pool.”

Whitman’s biggest strength is her potential to analyze and articulate fresh approaches to chronic economic and political problems; her greatest weakness is her failure to come close to doing so, at least to date, as she keeps trying to sound authentic while masking her moderate politics with talking points borrowed from the right.poiznerpointing1

Steve Poizner: The outsider’s insider
(Or: Neener Neener –I’m better than the other guys)

Like Whitman, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner struck it rich in Silicon Valley, but unlike his even better-heeled rival, he at least had the modesty to get elected to something before pronouncing himself ready to take the states’ top job.

The Poison Commissioner’s promise to bring gimlet-eyed, bottom-line acumen to the business of governing is also not unlike Whitman’s pitch, but it’s tempered by a more seasoned and clear-eyed notion of what he’s getting himself into. With a brisk and brook-no-nonsense style, Poizner approaches his own right-wing pandering from a less ethereal perch than Whitman, which could sell with fed-up voters hankering for a governor who acts more like an IRS auditor who works for them than a political celebrity who wants to work the room.

Poizner’s biggest strength is his self-disciplined focus on a core conservative message; his greatest weakness is that his constant aggressive attacks on rivals can make him sound like a grumpy old man with a tin-foil hat and a pocket protector.

tomcampbell1Tom Campbell: I actually know what I’m talking about
(Or: I’d be a great governor if only someone would appoint me)

With the squeaky cleanest, best-and-brightest resume of the bunch, Dudley Do-Right can claim the mantle of substantive specificity (or specific substance) in the race. He’s the only candidate on either side who combines the knowledge and courage (or maybe foolishness) to get down and dirty with the details of ways and means to pull state government out of the primeval ooze into which it’s sunk.

Campbell’s moderate-to-liberal positions on most social issues are way beyond squishy for Republican primary voters, and he simply doesn’t have the table stakes to play with Whitman and Poizner when it comes to mounting a costly media air war. To have a chance, he’s going to have to catch fire as the candidate of free media, a plain-spoken, straight-from-the-shoulder kind of guy, who roams the land, from radio talk show to radio talk show, telling voters unpleasant truths about the way it really is.

His biggest strength is his outsized intelligence and under-the-hood understanding of how government actually works; his greatest weakness is his proven inability to close the deal in a statewide race or to translate his big brain Eagle Scout act into an emotional connection with voters.

Wildcards

Calbuzz has said for months that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein – who could likely have the Democratic nomination in a walk-over — won’t make a run. And she admitted as much as few weeks back. But it’s never too late for a late entry wildcard to juice a little jolt of excitement into what is, truth be told, a candidate field a few degrees south of scintillating.

The Reps don’t have a true-believing movement conservative running, so there’s plenty of room on the right for another GOP entrant. On the other side, are attractive and ambitious Dems – Jack O’Connell comes to mind – really going to cede the field to this crowd?

Whither California?

The next governor cannot be a caretaker. He or she must have the vision and raw political skill to guide California through the structural and fiscal changes demanded by the crumbling, contorted and corrupted system that state government has become.

As we’ll continue to argue – California’s challenge is to restore democracy where institutional chaos now reigns. It will be the next governor’s job to lead us into a new era.