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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Morain’



Know Nothings and the Death of Political Compromise

Monday, February 28th, 2011

President Ronald Reagan often compared leaders of the Soviet Union to the movie producers against whom he once bargained as president of the Screen Actors Guild. That early experience, Reagan told serial biographer Lou Cannon, was where he “learned to negotiate.”

“The purpose of a negotiation,” Reagan added, “is to get an agreement.”

What a quaint notion.

The conversation, related by Cannon during a forum sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project last week, illuminates a fundamental difference in the Manichaeistic politics of millennial conservative leaders, who endlessly exalted the former president during recent celebrations of his centennial, and the real-life record of Reagan himself.

From his days as California’s governor, when he backed what was then the largest tax increase in state history as part of a bipartisan budget agreement, to the world-changing agreements on nuclear arms reduction he forged with Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan managed to maintain his commitment to his  conservative principles while finding ways to cut acceptable deals with Democrats in the Legislature and the Congress.

His approach contrasts with the current crop of ideologues, from Washington to Wisconsin and Sacramento, who sneer at the concept of compromise and dismiss the idea of negotiation, the twin foundations of governance that have long made representative democracy work.

“While Reagan tried to stuff everything he heard or read into the view of the world he had brought with him to Washington, he appreciated the value of compromise and negotiation,” Cannon wrote in “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” his seminal biography.

“And on nearly all issues, Reagan was simultaneously an ideologue and a pragmatist. He complained to aides that true believers on the Republican right…preferred to ‘go off the cliff with all flags flying,’ rather than take half a loaf and come back for more, as Reagan believed liberals had been doing since the days of the New Deal.”

The Wisconsin con: Compare this attitude to that of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who’s become an instant hero to the mossback crowd with his political jihad against the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining. In a taped conversation with a person he believed to be his right-wing patron David Koch (who was actually an alternative newspaper editor who punked the governor and his staff), Walker offered a candid look at his crude and autocratic theory idea of governing.

At one point, for example, he expressed contempt for the moderate Democratic leader of the Wisconsin senate, who has reached out to Walker in an attempt to settle the partisan deadlock over unions, saying the senator is “pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us…He’s just trying to get something done. . . .He’s just a pragmatist.” Perish the thought.

“I don’t budge,” Walker then told the liberal journalist posing as Koch; he added, in what he believed was a private conversation, that while he might publicly pretend to be open to compromise discussions with Democrats, he would do so only as a way to con them: “I’m not negotiating,” he said.

A Capitol caucus of sheep: These rabid sentiments echo in Sacramento, where 30 Republican legislators last week announced a so-called “Taxpayers Caucus.” At a time when even Republican-tilted business organizations in the state back Jerry Brown’s deficit plan to allow voters to decide whether to extend $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees, membership in this Know Nothing caucus requires a blood oath to obstruct all bids to put the measure on the ballot.

It is instructive that the leader of this cadre is right-wing senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

Running in one of the few competitive districts in the state, Strickland in 2008 defeated Hannah Beth Jackson, an extremely liberal former Assembly member, by exactly 857 votes out of more 415,000 cast; rather than moderating his personal ideology to reflect the broad range of views held by his constituents, however, Landslide Tony chooses to grovel at the feet of Grover Norquist, the Washington-based anti-government extremist who threatens with retribution any Republican who votes to put Brown’s tax plan before voters.

While Strickland and his reckless brethren try to gussy up their stance as a matter of conservative principle, it rests instead on a set of intellectually dishonest and purely partisan canards and deceits.

Decrying Brown’s budget plan, GOP legislators refuse to put forth one of their own, placing partisan gamesmanship ahead of governance in the full knowledge that attaching numbers and detail to their worn-out rhetoric would prove the absurdity of their call for an all-cuts budget.

Rejecting reality, the poseurs pretend that the $85 billion budget is filled with vast amounts of wasteful discretionary spending, knowing that the state’s money overwhelmingly goes to K-12 schools, higher education and health programs, expenditures that enjoy widespread public support and which they lack the courage to openly and specifically oppose.

Putting ideology over rational debate, they fear California’s voters, mindful that an election testing the popularity of their no-taxes-ever policies may  reveal the emptiness of their politics. Chronicler John Diaz offers a trenchant summary of their puerility:

The governor, who relishes intellectual interchange, confronted Republicans last week in a highly unusual appearance before a budget conference committee. As is often the case with Brown, he mixed humor and in-your-face persuasion in searching for common ground with his adversaries.

“Pledges are interesting, they make good theater,” Brown told legislators. “But the fact is we have to have a plan, we need a solution, and for those who say they don’t want to vote, then why are you here?”

Good question: Why are they here, collecting their nearly six-figure salaries plus per diem, if they consider the state’s predicament the other party’s problem and none of their concern?

The great exception, again: In a recent national poll, the Pew Research Center reported results that at first glance seem to give an edge to kneejerk hardliners. By 49-42%, the findings showed, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with.”

But in this matter, as in many others, California goes its own way, as gauged by a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll taken during last fall’s campaign for governor. As we reported then, the survey:

…offers a glimmer of hope for California, finding that voters by a 2-1 margin say they’d prefer a governor “who can work effectively with others across party lines” to one who “is single-minded and will fight for what he or she thinks is correct.”

Democrats, moderates and liberals are most in favor of a governor who works with the opposition, but even Republicans and conservatives would rather have a governor who can work effectively across party lines.

The problem in Sacramento, however, has not been finding a governor who will work across party lines; the problem is finding enough legislators who will work with the governor.

How Brown is like Reagan: At a time when Brown is offering to compromise with Republicans on big issues they purport to care about, from pension reform to business regulation and a state spending cap, it defies common sense for the GOP to turn away from Reagan-style negotiated agreements. Cannon again:

Reagan did not fit the neat ideological stereotype that was presented in alternative forms by movement conservatives and liberal activists…

“He liked to see the people around him work towards an acceptable compromise, said White House cabinet secretary Craig Fuller. “Both words are important. Acceptable in a sense that it met his criteria, narrow as they might be. Compromise in that nobody got exactly what they wanted, but nobody lost.”

Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.

Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the  decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.

Recommended reading:

Timesman Frank Rich offers a national perspective on the rejection of compromise and negotiation.

Dana Milbank of the Washpost looks more deeply at the Khaddafi-like views of Scott Walker. 

Dan Morain has an excellent take on the goofball Taxpayers Caucus.

Steve Harmon exposes the urban legend of Republicans being politically destroyed for backing tax increases.

Taxes and Taxidermists: Your Money At Work

Friday, January 21st, 2011

A Google search of the words “taxes” and “quotations” yields 2.3 million results, and a wide-ranging, scrupulously sketchy scientific survey shows that 95% of them fall into one of two categories: 1) traditional, if tired, sentiments of the garden variety kvetching and caterwauling mode; 2) traditional, if tired, cheap one-liners, some of which still retain their zip.

“Taxes grow without rain,” goes the Jewish proverb, which set the template for several centuries worth of bellyaching jokes by public wits, from Mark Twain (“What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector?  The taxidermist takes only your skin”) to Will Rogers (“Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even”) and the late, great Arthur Godfrey (“I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half of the money”).

Digging deeper into this trove of popular wisdom, however, intrepid Calbuzz researchers also discovered a handful of famous comments that posit a contrary, and now quaint, community-minded notion:

“Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society,” said Franklin Roosevelt, a belief concisely seconded by Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I like to pay taxes – with them I buy civilization” –and thirded much more loquaciously (quite naturally, since he was French) the 18th century economist and statesman Turgot: “The expenses of government, having for their object the interest of all, should be borne by everyone, and the more a man enjoys the advantages of society, the more he ought to hold himself honored in contributing to those expenses.”

All this comes to mind as new/old Gov. Jerry Brown has stirred up a very basic, and crucially important, statewide public policy debate, namely: exactly what kind of government do Californians want and expect, and exactly how much are they willing to pay for it?

Behind all the in-the-weeds arguments about IHSS caregiver rates, CSU per-unit fees and gas tax swap extension legislation lurks the fundamental contradiction, disclosed in countless opinion surveys, that Golden State residents demand and desire a deep level of public services, while fiercely rejecting the laws of arithmetic requiring them to dig deep to finance them.

Argumentum ad populum.

As Tom Meyer illustrates today, the good citizens of Arizona have recently endured a pragmatic and painful lesson in the consequences of having a raging psychotic walking freely in their midst, not to mention brazenly buying high-powered weapons.

As recriminations and debate about who is at fault for the horror and slaughter inflicted on innocent families by Jared Loughener – Rush Limbaugh! Karl Marx! Bad parents! – taxpayer-funded government services (the kind no doubt administered by lazy, loafing bureaucrats), which once might have responded to the clear, numerous and public warning signs that the killer was mentally melting down, are scarce and getting scarcer.

“It’s a perfect storm here in Arizona,” Matt Heinz, a Tucson physician, state legislator and friend of the gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, told the WashPost.  “Services are being slashed and burned. Potentially in the next few months we’ll be releasing thousands of folks from their relative stability. Our community resources are strapped beyond belief. And the state, which you’d think would be the safety net – we’ve lit the net on fire.”

Taxidermists, indeed.

You, too, can win big prizes: Issue driven and solution oriented, Calbuzz always aims to do our part. So today we’re presenting the first of what we hope is a series of innovative ideas from you, Our Loyal Readers, to help ease California’s fiscal woes.

Got an original idea for cutting state expenses or raising revenues? Email it to calbuzzer@gmail.com and win two – count ‘em, two! – free Calbuzz buttons with our famous redheaded-guy-with-his-finger-in-the-socket logo.

Our first Big Idea from Capitol employee Sarah Weaver:

I work a few floors above where former GAS had his smoking tent.  Now that it’s gone, I respectfully suggest that GJB should put a Zen garden down there.  The Astroturf looks weird, and I think we’d all be entertained watching him draw lines in the sand.

Entertained, hell. Let’s charge admission and rake in big bucks for the general fund!

Top honors for Sacramento scribblers: Sacbee’s Kevin Yamamura, whose daily budget coverage is a must-read, offers a good look at how some special interests are still doing well…The hypocrisy-puncturing Dan Morain calls out lawmakers who constantly bray about cutting taxes but never stop shoveling it into their pie holes with both hands while feeding at the public trough (Warning: contains large dosage of Actual Reporting)…Nice piece by Cap Weekly’s John Howard on how the Silver Fox is changing Capitol  atmospherics…Timm Herdt provides all you need to know to follow the brain-numbing debate about de-funding redevelopment agencies…Last word on the importance, or lack of same, to the Arizona massacre of Palin-style face-ripping political speech goes to Frank Rich …When nothing else will do but a good reader on the history of U.S. adventurism in Africa: Adam Hochschild on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

No F*&%ing Way! That’s the title and the point in a sharp new ad about the GOP attack on health care by Move On. Might not be a big hit in the heartland, but then again, maybe it strikes a chord.

Dr. H. Secret Decoder Ring Memo to Flash: Some free management advice:  Never contract out your wet work - always do it yourself. “Bet you won’t say that to my face!” Really? Seriously? Where do you find these guys – Miss Joslin’s Ding Dong School? Next up: “Wah! He hit me!”

Calbuzz picks: Steelers and Packers (pained as we are — Buckeyes — to pick either of these evil empires).

Arnold’s Exit Reeks; Must Read for Political Junkies

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Our first inclination was to let Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long-awaited and very welcome departure from Sacramento pass, feeling content to bid good riddance to bad rubbish without remarking on the occasion.

Unfortunately, and despite the big blast of fresh air that Jerry Brown’s inauguration blew into the capital this week, the atmosphere still reeks of the feculent odor produced by the final acts of the phony huckster who held California captive to his unbridled narcissism for the past seven years.

The parade of hacks, sycophants and cronies that he and his Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy shamelessly appointed to six-figure scam government jobs is reprehensible enough; sadly, however, it differs mainly in degree from the actions of previous one-step-ahead-of-the-posse administrations. What is truly different, and truly stomach-churning, is Schwarzenegger’s cowardly action in reducing the prison sentence of the punk son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in the knife attack killing of a student at the San Diego State campus several years ago.

What Dan Walters properly and precisely labeled the “foul stench”  of Schwarzenegger’s move had one and only one motive – to misuse his public trust power to do a personal favor for a political ally; the big bad movie tough guy didn’t even have the courage – let alone the common decency – to notify the dead kid’s family, who had to learn the news from a reporter while  the gutless ex-governor sneaked out of town like a “con man on the run,” as Chronicler Deb Saunders aptly put it.

It’s instructive that young Nunez, clearly raised with a keen sense of entitlement, boasted to his friends after the killing that his father was a big shot who would help them avoid the need to take responsibility for their craven actions.

In a broad sense, the most destructive impact of Schwarzenegger’s move is the message it sends to Californians that they’re right to hold a low opinion of state government as a fix-is-in special interest operation doling out goodies and personal rewards to privileged insiders – even one convicted of a senseless act of manslaughter – while treating as a bunch of chumps ordinary folks whose daddies don’t happen to be close pals of the governor.

“The significant damage is that his behavior merely reaffirms the cynicism and disgust most Californians hold for the institution of government,” George Skelton wrote in an on-the-money column on the matter.  And as Tom Meyer illustrates today, the spectacle of such disgusting behavior performed by an alleged, self-described “reformer” is a mockery that reveals Schwarzenegger to be a bigger fraud than even Calbuzz thought possible.


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Life after (thank God) Arnold: If you didn’t get a copy under the Christmas tree this year and you’re jonesin’ for a fix of unfiltered California politics, you should pick up a copy of “California After Arnold,” an insightful look at where we’ve been and where we might be headed by a couple of longtime Democratic intellectuals.

Steve Cummings and Patrick Reddy have gone to a lot of trouble to pull together an enormous compendium of polling, census and voting data on California, which is just the 208-page appendix to their smart analysis of  Schwarzenegger’s election and governorship and a survey of the history, structure and likely future of California politics.

This is not a breezy read. But it’s packed with keen observations and research that allows them to make conclusions like:

– The preliminary assessment (of Schwarzenegger’s performance) is on the edge of either a B-minus or a C-plus.

– From a fiscal standpoint, Jerry Brown was much more like Ronald Reagan than Pat Brown.

– For some forty years, Californians have wanted a blue state culture financed on a red state budget.

– Proposition 187 shook the Hispanic giant out of its slumber because it threatened the one thing they consider most precious – their children.

Besides having the brilliance to quote liberally from Calbuzz, Cummings and Reddy appear to have read and digested every poll, voting tabulation, census factoid and consultant’s playbook for the past several decades.

Their unflinching analysis of Tom Bradley’s narrow loss to George Deukmejian in 1982 not only considers the effect of the Handgun Registration Initiative and lackluster Latino turnout for the black Democrat, but even extends to “urban white precincts that were in close proximity to black neighborhoods.”

If Tom Bradley had won every white Democrat who voted for the extremely unpopular Jerry Brown [for US Senate] that same day, he would have been governor of the nation’s most populous state. There is no explanation for the loss of white working class voters other than race.

Published after the 2010 governor’s race had begun but before it was over, Cummings and Reddy provided nice capsule profiles of the various candidates but were unable to analyze the outcome.

But even before the final combatants were known, they predicted, “If the general election is between Brown and a conservative, Brown will win. The Republicans have simply no one to match up with him.”

They got that right, too.

Make way, make way: Looks like your Calbuzzers aren’t the only ones to look askance at the excessive self-regard and blatantly over-the-top ambition to be governor that have marked the early days in office of Attorney General Kamala (Landslide) Harris.

” So far, there is plenty of evidence that she’s running. Her inauguration lasted almost twice as long as Jerry Brown’s swearing-in, and she promised much more,” writes the Sacbee’s ace editorial columnist Dan Morain. “It’s heady to be a contender for governor, maybe the front-runner. Harris has the talent to rise. But first, she needs to tend to the job she has and leave foreign policy to her pal in the White House…”

Consumer’s Guide to eMeg’s Empire; Debate Round II

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In a bold attempt to go where no one has gone before, some of Jerry’s Kids, using campaign finance reports and information from the web, have pieced together an org chart of the Armies of eMeg Whitman for Governor campaign – that massive, impenetrable bureaucracy that is responsible for spending (and receiving) something approaching $150 million of eMeg’s money.

Counting people up, across and over (which sometimes puts people in more than one sector of the Invasion of Normandy graphic) we find eight people in scheduling and advance, 10 staff and consultants in policy, 16 in coalitions, 16 in field operations, 27 in fund-raising and finance and 24 in communications, including eight in the research group.

“In the green box marked ‘Miscellaneous Campaign Staff,’ there are an additional four staffers who have made more than $100,000 from Whitman, and we have no idea what they’re doing,” Brown’s research director told Calbuzz.

Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer likens Whitman’s campaign to a massive aircraft carrier that is stalled in the middle of the ocean, floating listlessly, unable to gain momentum despite spending millions and millions and millions on TV and radio advertising, internet communications, mail, telephone banks, fundraising, event planning and execution – you name it, USS eMeg has paid for it.

Whether that’s an accurate portrayal of a campaign operation with no equal in the history of California is still uncertain. This we know: No governor’s office we’re aware of ever had such a massive org chart, unless you count all the agencies and departments that are part of an administration and the CHP protective detail.

Also, no one in a governor’s office ever made this kind of money: strategist Mike Murphy’s Bonaparte Productions, $861,474; adviser Henry Gomez, $769,216; campaign manager Jilian Hasner, $667,552; adviser Jeff Randle, $572,949; security director John Endert, $261,682; communications director Tucker Bounds, $293,349; press secretary Sarah Pompei, $154,872; yadayadayada. That’s not even all the big-tick items and it’s only up to the most recent financial reporting period.

Another Calbuzz blow for truth, justice and the American way. We report, you decide.

China in a bull shop: In sifting the detritus of Wednesday night’s big Senate debate, we hereby declare that the wrong-headed wags who described it as a “dud” or “boring” apparently  tuned in to the wrong channel, and were watching the Dodgers game or something.

All right-thinking persons agree that Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer both were strong, smart and sharp in acquitting themselves favorably in the debate, and that their relentless, tough but civil exchanges made for one of the more impressive such events in recent memory (given the state of our short-term recall facility, of course).

That said, the rivals also each owned their fair share of foibles and fumbles, even if they did manage to avoid making utter fools of themselves. Here’s a look at some lowlights for each:

Hurricane blowing in the wind: Fiorina’s thoroughly baffling refusal to publicly endorse Prop. 23 – a stance that can only anger conservative backers while earning her exactly zero props from the anti-greenhouse gas gang – has already been well chronicled and chewed over here and here (don’t miss the part where she says, “look, I’m not trying to be evasive here”).

As lame as her performance on climate change was, the much under-reported nadir of her night came at the post-debate press conference, when she engaged in a cringeworthy colloquy with the Sacbee’s Dan Morain on the subject of China. Peering over his little gold spectacles and speaking in a gentle voice, Morain hooked Carly like a fish, asking her, in effect, what such a champion of capitalism and liberty as herself found so appealing about an authoritarian communist-run state as a place to do business.

Q: You spoke favorably about China and what China has done to create jobs. Is- are there things that China does that you think California ought to do?

A: Absolutely. China has done wonderful things to create jobs. Let’s start with the fact that they created things called ‘special economic zones’. Now we have things that are called something similar here in California, but we didn’t follow through with policies that actually create jobs….

I have called for the creation of something similar called “Jobs for American Zones”, and in those “Jobs for American Zones” we would give very specific tax cuts and tax credits…to hire American workers we would use the power of the federal government to cut through regulation and we would make sure that we are rewarding innovation.

Every single one of those things I just mentioned, China rewards innovation better than we do…and if you ask a manufacturer how easy it is to build a new manufacturing plant here in California what they’ll tell you it has become virtually impossible because of the taxes they have to pay and the thicket of permits and regulations they have to go through. So yes, let’s learn from what the Chinese have done.

Q: Well, well China has very different rules as relates to labor and human rights and things like that

A: And I certainly do not suggest that we follow Chinese rules on labor. That is not why most companies go to China…certainly technology companies are not going to China for the cost of labor. That’s a very small piece of the cost of a technology manufacturing plant.

To recap:

1-Personnel costs: negligible business expense.
2-Shortage of child labor laws and environmental regs: no discernible benefit to balance sheet.
3-60 hour work weeks at 60 cents an hour (and they pay us for the bed they sleep in, boss!):  no big deal to bottom line.

Please remove your shoes and AK-47s while going through security: We also were scratching our heads over Carly’s line of attack accusing Boxer of not having authored enough legislation; we always thought conservatives were pretty much in favor of that whole…governs best which  governs least thing, no?

Simply put, isn’t breathing fire about excess regulation and then ripping your opponent for not writing enough bills sort of like complaining the restaurant food’s lousy and the portions are too small?

Let’s leave that one off the highlight reel: Another iCarly low moment came with her sputtering defense of her previous statements of support for the sacred Second Amendment rights of folks who appear on the government’s post-9/11 don’t-fly list, a dumb and  unnecessary pander to right-wing primary voters that she’s now stuck with.

Calbuzz debate hint: As a general rule, fighting from a deep defensive crouch while desperately trying to explain that you really didn’t mean to say that terrorists have an unalienable right to bear arms is only rarely an effective tactic. (And don’t get us started on her stirring call for We the People to throw off the shackles of government so we can all walk the streets, heads held high, free men armed to the teeth with assault rifles and criss-crossed bandoliers of ammo).

Who’s on first: It was an interesting coincidence that Boxer also managed to screw the pooch on the arms-for-dangerous-airline travelers issue.

Presented with a big ole’ hanging curve ball she should have belted into the third deck, Babs only hit a weak foul ball in her response on the matter. Rather than portraying Hurricane as a dangerous extremist intent on arming jihadis, Babs inexplicably lurched off into a nonsensical riff about how, uh, my opponents position on this issue, coming during a GOP primary debate a couple months ago, uh, really upset Tom Campbell, who, uh, almost never gets excited, but this time got so upset he said, “oh my” or something.

At which point living rooms all over California suddenly filled with conversations like:

Huh? Wot’d she say? Who’s Campbell? The soup?

No, dummy, the one running for Senate…

I thought it’s Fiorina’s running for Senate…

Oh. Yeah? Campbell’s for governor then…

No, Whitman’s for governor, the one makes the candy, not the soup…

Point of order, point of order: Babs also had no answer for Fiorina’s criticism (contradictory and politically self-canceling as it was) of her thin legislative record.

Every time Hurricane raised the issue, the junior Senator from California  started dithering about “a thousand Boxer measures” or a “thousand Boxer provisions,” language that no doubt is useful for chopping it up with the parliamentarian in the Senate cloakroom, but isn’t quite as compelling for what you might call your Real People.

Next up: Boxer’s thousand points of light…

Your slip is showing: Boxer’s worst gaffe came in her otherwise strong closing statement, which she screwed up by solemnly declaring that she is “fighting for taxes for the middle class and small business.”

Oops.

It didn’t take Babs manager Rose Kapolczynski,  always cool as the other side of the pillow, to issue one of those “What Senator Boxer meant to say” statements:

Throughout the debate, Barbara Boxer described the importance of tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class.  In her closing statement, she skipped a word mistakenly saying that she is “fighting for taxes for the middle class and small business” rather than fighting for “tax cuts for the middle class and small business,” which her record clearly demonstrates.

Freud never sleeps.

Fun with Numbers: Has eMeg Got Her $$’s Worth?

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Three months before the November election, there appear to be three major beneficiaries of Meg Whitman’s over-the-top spending in her campaign for governor.

Unfortunately for the Republican nominee, none of them is her.

With new campaign finance statements scheduled to be filed this week, eMeg is expected to report somewhere north of $100 million in boodle disbursed to date, as the big winners in her extravagant spree are:

1-The vast legions of consultants, strategists, pollsters, flacks, purse carriers and other geniuses who have raked in tens of millions in fees, commissions, salaries and investments, in the greatest political bonanza since Bill Clinton auctioned off one-night stands in the Lincoln Bedroom..

2-The TV stations of California, which have been on the receiving end of Whitman’s own special economic stimulus program for nearly a year now. How’s this for a stat: Dan Morain noted in his Sunday SacBee column that she’s run 25,727 broadcast and cable ads since the primary alone. That’s not to mention Google and other online ad venues, where it’s all but  impossible to miss  that ubiquitous picture of Young Meg looking oddly forlorn for someone with that much loot in her future.

3-Carlos Alvarez and Dale Ogden, the Peace and Freedom and Libertarian candidates for governor, respectively, who each soared into the low single digits in the most recent PPIC poll, as Whitman drooped to her lowest level of support among likely voters in 2010.

In an interview the other day, her Democratic rival Jerry Brown said that eMeg has “wasted most of her money on unwise and ‘lavish’ spending,” according to our old friend Jim Boren at the Fresno Bee.

That’s easy for Krusty to say, even though his own poll numbers haven’t exactly taken flight; given that he’s spent a total of about 12 cents, it’s hard to argue with his point, if you overlay Whitman’s spending with some of her trend lines in the PPIC survey.

1-Among likely voters back in January, eMeg was backed by 36%, to Brown’s 41%; after inundating the airwaves for six months with the equivalent of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick’s GDP, the bottom line is that she lost two points of support, and now trails Brown 34-37%.

2-Among independent voters, Whitman’s investment has netted little.  In January, she trailed Brown among the crucial group of decline-to-state voters, who hold the balance of power in a statewide race,  28-36%; two months later, she’d surged, largely on the strength of a 14-point swing among independents, who then favored her over Brown, 43-37%. But after dominating the airwaves in the months since, she again trails among independents, 28-30%, according to the PPIC survey released last week.

3-Among female voters, who should represent a big opportunity for Whitman, the first Republican woman ever nominated for governor, there’s a stubborn gender gap. In January, she trailed Brown, 30-44%, among women; today, after going to the purse for $2 million a week, week after week, she’s behind 28-40%.

By far, Whitman’s strongest showing came in PPIC’s poll in March – before she unleashed the bulk of her advertising in her successful primary race against Steve Poizner. At that point, she led Brown 44-39% overall and, as noted above, ran ahead among independents; among women, she was within the margin of error.

But after that, all that bashing Poizner on the airwaves through the primary (while getting bashed by him to the tune of about $20 million) yielded was a 10-point shift in Brown’s favor; she trailed the AG shortly before the June 8 election by 37-42%. Now, after six weeks of incessant attacks against Brown, her level of support has eroded by another three points, though she’s also knocked him down by five.

As a practical matter, the Whitman campaign has yet to give voters a strong, positive reason to be for her, or even told them much about her, except a) she used to be the CEO of eBay; b) she’s not Steve Poizner or Jerry Brown; c) she thinks jobs and schools are really important; d) she believes illegal immigration is a terrible thing, except when she doesn’t; e) did we mention she used to be the CEO of eBay?

The Field Poll shows a trend line in the Whitman-Brown head-to-head matchup that’s more favorable to eMeg than the PPIC survey, but it nevertheless also suggests that the more people hear about her, the less they like her.

Back in January – when her image was still a relatively clean slate for voters – less than half of those surveyed had an opinion of her, but among those who did, it was positive 25-20%. Today, more than 80 percent have an opinion about her, but it’s negative – 42% unfavorable and 40% favorable.

Calbuzzards ain’t exactly masters of the universe when it comes to matters of high finance, but for such a smart businesswoman, that $100 million out the door seems to us, all in all, like kind of a mediocre investment.

Of course, the funds spent by Brown’s labor pals  — especially California Working Families — may not have done much to boost Krusty’s favorables, but they seem to have helped prevent Meg from developing much of a favorable image among swing voters, either.

All this helps explain why Team Meg recently launched a new charm offensive, trying to cozy up to Latinos  (a strategy undercut by widespread reporting about her prevarication on the issue, not to mention her own conflicting statements to news outlets) and with a new, positive 60-second radio ad (which once again focuses almost exclusively on her eBay experience).

Obviously, with three months to go, and uncounted millions to spend, there’s plenty of time and resources for Team eMeg to make some adjustments that offer a more effective criteria for her candidacy than they have to date.

But the closer it gets to Labor Day, when Brown intends to start putting his own ads on the air, the more difficult it becomes for her to exploit her greatest asset, the unprecedented edge she enjoys in money and, by likely extension, in campaign mechanics and organization as well.

The big piece that’s still missing from eMeg’s big-spending campaign is a compelling positive message, along with the answers to two, lingering key questions:  Why, exactly, does she want to be elected governor so badly that she’s willing to spend $100 million+ to do it? And why, exactly, is that a good deal for voters?

Inquiring minds want to know.