Posts Tagged ‘DTS voters’



Lockyer: Both Parties Must Bend to Repair California

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, one of the most experienced and durable Democratic politicians in California, was the keynote speaker at the 2010 governor’s race post-mortem hosted by the Institute of Governmental Affairs at UC Berkeley. Here’s the text of his lucid prepared remarks, delivered Jan. 22, 2011 at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

By Bill Lockyer

Several years ago, Thomas Frank wrote a book titled “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”  The book was Mr. Frank’s attempt to explain, from his admittedly liberal perspective, the American heartland’s attraction to conservatism.

After the 2010 elections, I would not be surprised to see a conservative writer pen a book entitled “What’s the Matter with California?” in an attempt to explain how and why the Republican tidal wave broke at the California border. It’s a question worthy of exploration.

Why were the California results so unique?

There was a Democratic sweep of every statewide constitutional office; there was not a single loss of a California congressional or Senate seat held by Democrats; and there was a pick up of one Democratic seat in the Assembly.

My explanation starts with one counter-intuitive fact: The California results were not the result of some hyped-up turnout in the Democratic base or of a depressed Republican turnout. An examination of the actual election results, as opposed to the exit polls or post-election polling, shows that the 2010 turnout in every demographic group were within a percentage or two of the 2006 turnout . . . with a few exceptions.

One interesting exception was 18-24 year-old voters, who turned out at a 6.4 percentage points higher level than in 2006. And 25-34 year-old voters also improved their turnout by 3.6 percent. At the same time, Republicans increased their overall turnout by 3.6 percentage points and DTS (decline to state) voter participation expanded by 3.4 percent.

Exit polls in other states do show varying degrees of higher turnout among Republican base voters along with some depressed numbers in the Democratic base. But, in California, we simply had a decent turnout among all voters.

So, if turnout doesn’t explain California’s Democratic exceptionalism, what does?

I believe California has a structural firewall that protected Democrats against the Republican “shellacking”.

Democrats continue to win substantial majorities of women, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, younger voters, gay and lesbian voters, coastal voters, liberals, and college educated voters. You combine that coalition with the majority of “moderate” and DTS voters who express their preference for Democratic candidates in almost every election and you have to ask: “Who the hell is left to vote for the Republicans?”

Simply answered, Republicans are the party of older white voters from inland California, a base too small to win in 21st Century California. These demographics have been with us for 20 years now and show no sign of changing.

This electoral reality deeply impacts how we govern in California. The shrinking Republican Party is so dominated by conservative voters that competitive Republican primaries damage Republican nominees who have to work their way through the litmus test minefield of taxes, immigration, abortion, gay rights, and the environment, and let’s not forget the “John and Ken primary ” test.

Remember, the most successful Republican candidate in recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, never ran in a competitive Republican Primary.

For Democrats, the challenge is not how we put together a successful campaign coalition, but how we govern successfully. And, for Democrats, at this moment in history the challenge of governing is how do we restore fiscal reality to our state budget and, at the same time, grow our state’s economy.

Democrats run for public office because we believe that government should play an active role in improving the lives of its citizens. Very few Democrats run for office because they want to shrink the size of government.

In 2011, and beyond, Democrats will have to defer their historic ideological mission for another time and accept the responsibility of cutting government spending now. This duty will inevitably put a Democratic governor, Democratic constitutional officers, and a Democratic legislature at odds with some Democratic constituencies and interest groups.

And, these Democratic elected officials cannot shrink from this responsibility.

California voters overwhelmingly have chosen Democrats to lead them out of this economic crisis and, if we fail, the political consequences in future elections will be profound.

Gov. Brown has opened this debate by coming forward with an honest budget based on real numbers, free of phony accounting gimmicks. Its basic premise is that half of the answer to erasing the deficit should come from cuts in spending and half should come by extending taxes that are scheduled to expire. This is both sound policy and good politics.

As political leaders and as voters, if we do not support and follow this path and close our budget deficit, the consequences will be profound and Draconian.

The question is: How does our legislature respond?

Our inability to create bi-partisan compromises in our state’s budget has resulted in an endless shell game that has mired California in a persistent and ever-growing budget deficit. Too often the expedient has trumped the prudent.

Democrats must prove that they are willing to make substantial cuts in government spending to have credibility in this debate with voters and with Republican colleagues. The fact is that voters are likely to reject (again) the governor’s call to extend expiring taxes unless they see real budget cuts passed by the legislature.

Republicans must begin to participate fully in the governing of California and Democrats should welcome their participation. If Republicans fail in their responsibility, they will continue to be a shrinking minority party.

Republicans must negotiate with the governor and their Democratic colleagues in good faith and take the litmus tests off the table. This will begin to make the Republican Party relevant to the future of California.

To my Republican friends, I ask a simple question: “What good has all the political posturing done for the Republican Party?” When you can’t make political progress in California during a national Republican landslide, it is time to try a new approach.

No Relation to Grover Norquist

When Grover Norquist, a professional anti-tax activist based in D.C., demands every California Republican legislator sign a no tax pledge, a pledge that he insists includes denying the people the right to vote on the path forward, we really are in the Twilight Zone.

If Republicans are hostages to their litmus test politics, they won’t be at the table that works out the budget fix. Republican voices and ideas will not be a part of the solution.

Now, let’s talk about the “elephant” in the room. Democrats cannot expect Republicans to commit political suicide in order to pass a budget. That is why Democrats must be prepared to negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts that last as long as the tax hike extensions. Should either party come out of budget negotiations declaring victory, California will be the loser.

Democrats and Republicans can choose another way. Together, we can turn California around.

Fifty years ago this week, in his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy spoke words, in another context, that apply to this day and this time.

“United, there is little we cannot do. Divided, there is little we can do.”

It Wasn’t the Economy, Stupid, It Was Character

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

In their last pre-election survey, Oct. 10-17, the Public Policy Institute of California found that six in 10 likely voters said jobs and the economy represented the most important issue facing California and that by a margin of 47-39%, Meg Whitman would do a better job on this pressing concern.

Moreover, while the survey showed Brown leading Whitman 44-36%, it oddly found “independents” – that is, respondents identified as likely voters who said they were registered as independents — divided 36-37% for Whitman.

But in PPIC’s post-election survey taken Nov. 3-14 and released Wednesday night, Brown won the “independents” 56-38% — a staggering shift of 19 points in Brown’s favor. In addition, according to PPIC, Latinos who favored Brown 51-22% in October ended up voting for Brown over Whitman by 75-22% — a 24 point move to Brown.

By comparison, the Field Poll’s last survey (based on actual registered voters surveyed Oct. 14-26) had Brown winning independents 49-33% and the L.A. Times/USC survey from Oct. 13-20 (also based on registered voters) had independents for Brown 55-26%.

Field had Latinos favoring Brown 57-27% before the election and the LAT/USC survey had Latinos backing Brown 59-23%.

Before trying to make sense of these numbers, consider a few findings from the LA Times/USC survey also taken Nov. 3-14 among actual registered voters:

1) Among those who said they think of themselves as independents instead of Democrats or Republicans (not the same as PPIC’s question which asks respondents how they are registered), just one third of those who said they’re independents were actually registered as Decline-to-State voters.

2) Among Latino voters, Whitman’s unfavorable rating was 71% compared to 17% favorable. Among registered DTS voters, it was 65% unfavorable and 22% favorable.

3) Latinos favored Brown over Whitman 80-15% (compared to the National Election Pool exit poll that said Latinos backed Brown 64-30%).

Confused yet? What the hell actually happened?

Did something occur in the closing weeks of the campaign that drove all of the undecided “independents” in PPIC’s survey to Brown? Or were they already lined up behind him as Field and LAT/USC found? How big was the Latino margin for Brown in the end? What actually drove the vote?

First, let’s look at the independent voters. According to the LAT/USC survey, they voted 59-33% for Brown which is not far off from PPIC’s 56-38%. The difference is in the shift that PPIC found versus what the LAT/USC and Field had before the election. PPIC’s survey suggests a huge movement of independents for Brown. It’s hard to see what could have driven that.

But the movement among Latinos – about 15-20% of whom are likely DTS voters – is easily explained by Whitman’s handling of her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz. In the end, somewhere between 65-80% of Latinos ended up voting for Jerry Brown. With a 71% unfavorable rating among Latinos, that’s not hard to comprehend.

Mark Baldassare of PPIC argues that his polls in October and November were both correct, and that the same things that drove Latinos to Brown also may have propelled independents. We suspect it’s more likely that the problem is rooted in using questions, rather than actual voter lists, to identify “independents” and that the October survey, for whatever reason, didn’t capture what was actually happening among actual DTS voters. (PPIC has to ask questions to identify likely voters and to classify them by party because it uses random digit dialing instead of working from the Secretary of State’s list of registered voters.)

But let’s go back to that PPIC finding in October that showed the economy was the top issue and that voters saw Whitman as better on the issue than Brown.

What the data all seem to suggest is something Calbuzz has argued several times before: that the race for governor did not turn on issues, but on character. In the end, voters saw Brown as the more authentic candidate whose values reflected more closely their own. By emphasizing that he would not raise taxes without voter approval, he made himself safe to moderate voters who didn’t like what they saw from Whitman.

By emphasizing “at this stage of my life” Brown wanted nothing more than to do what needed to be done, he undercut the attacks that portrayed him as a tool of unions and other special interests.

In other words, the conventional wisdom – that the election would turn on the economy and jobs – turned out to be completely wrong. That’s the ground on which team Whitman wanted to fight, but once the Bill Clinton ad blew up in her face and she refused to take it down, and once Nicky Diaz surfaced, the stories that captured voters’ attention were all about character and integrity.

Why does any of this matter? Because when the story of the 2010 California governor’s race is written, it should not make it all about independents and Latinos except to the extent that these voters were moved by impressions of the character of the combatants.

BTW, the PPIC survey goes into great detail looking at the propositions and the initiative process. It’s chock full of interesting data that we’re not even touching on here.

Beware Murphy, Rasmussen and Other B.S. Artists

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Didn’t happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Party, Gender and How Pollsters Handled Indies

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

“Party, party, party,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the esteemed Field Poll, replied when we asked him back in June if a candidate’s gender or partisan affiliation is more important in a general election.

“If you had to ask just one question that would predict how someone would vote, you’d want to ask their party,” he said.

Despite all the drama some writers, consultants and party activists stirred up around the notion that Meg Whitman could peel away women voters, a crucial part of the Democratic Party base, the results in the governor’s race prove that when push comes to shove, party trumps gender every time.

We’ll walk through the numbers, but there’s one problem: the data we have on the vote by party from the National Election Pool survey by Edison Research is crap.

The NEP survey asked voters leaving the polls to tell them if they think of themselves as Democrats, Republicans, independents or something else. These are not really independent voters as we know them in California – people who “decline to state” a party when they register to vote.

So we have to use data from the most accurate polls – the Field Poll and the USC/LA Times – to understand how actual independents voted when looking at gender and party effects.

Also, understand that Field and USC/LAT used actual voter registration rolls to identify actual voters. And of course, the NEP survey snagged actual voters leaving the polling place. But PPIC asks respondents how they are registered to vote, which means their sample, by party, is a reflection of what respondents say, which may or may not accurately reflect how they are registered. We can demonstrate the hazard in this by comparing the USC/LAT survey which, in addition to using party registration, also asked voters to identify themselves by party.

First, women: According to the NEP exit poll,  men voted for Brown over Whitman 51-45% while women voted for Brown 55-39%. That’s a  6-point margin among men and a 16-point margin  among women.

These numbers were reflected pretty well in pre-election polling, all of which showed Brown winning: Field had it 46-42% for Brown among men (4 points) and 51-35 (16 points) among women; USC/LAT had it 48-45% among men (3 points) and 55-34% among women (21 points); PPIC had it 41-40% among men (1 point) and 47-32% among women (15 points).

Then, party: But look how much stronger the party vote was.

In the Field Poll, Democrats voted for Brown 77-7% and Republicans voted for Whitman 68-16%; in the USC/LAT poll Democrats were for Brown  81-10 and Republicans were for Whitman 77-15%; PPIC found the Democrats 76-7% for Brown and the Republicans 73-11% for Whitman. These margins were from 69% to 71% among Democrats for Brown and from 52% to 62% among Republicans for Whitman. Much stronger effects than polling found for gender.

The NEP exit poll – in which the vote by party was intensified because of how independents were identified – found it 91-7% among Democrats for Brown and 84-11% among Republicans for Whitman.

DTS versus “independents”: As we all know, in California you may choose not to affiliate with a political party when you register to vote. These are “Decline to State” voters or DTS voters, who comprise about 20% of all registered voters. They are a crucial swing-vote block in California elections and identifying them and tracking their preferences is crucial to understanding how public opinion is moving.

Calbuzz will have more on this tomorrow when we deconstruct some of the myths that already have been spun about this election, including some knowing misstatements about how independents voted here.

But since Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll and Mark Baldassare of PPIC are doing their Mark and Mark Show at the Sacramento Press Club today, we thought we’d add a few notes to the discussion.

The Field Poll and USC/LAT — like virtually every political pollster hired by any big campaign or interest group — now uses the voter list to develop a sample of actual registered voters. Most pollsters pre-select the list for past voting behavior, only including in the sample people who have voted before, plus newly registered voters. Calbuzz thinks that’s the best practice to identify likely voters. It’s what all the good private pollsters do and what the poll takers for USC/LAT did. Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll disagrees. He takes a random sample of the voter list and uses past behavior to help select likely voters after interviews are completed. His system works: the Field Poll consistently ranks as one of the most accurate polling operations in the country.

But Mark Baldassare of PPIC asks a scientific random sample of adults: “Some people are registered to vote and others are not. Are you absolutely certain that you are registered to vote in California?” And, “Are you registered as a Democrat, a Republican, another party, or as an independent?” If the person says “independent” he or she is asked, “Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party or Democratic Party?”

That’s the kind of thing you have to do if you’re using random digit dialing instead of working from a voter list. Unfortunately, respondents aren’t always the best sources for knowing how they are registered to vote, no matter how careful the questions are.

The USC/LATimes poll, for example, asked people whether they were Democrats, Republicans or independents and compared their answers to their actual party registration: 22% of those who said they were “independent” were actually registered as Democrats; 34% of “independents” were actually registered Republicans, and just 38% of the self-identified independents were actually DTS voters.

When USC/LAT reported results, they used party registration, not party ID, to describe how people were voting. Which is a good thing, because in their survey, registered DTS voters favored Brown over Whitman 61-24 55-26% (probably too big a margin but at least in the right direction), but self-identified “independents” were favoring Whitman 46-45%.

The NEP exit poll — because it’s a nationwide survey including states with no voter registration — also asked people how they identify themselves. They asked: “No matter how you voted today, do you usually think of yourself as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or something else.”

Using that definition, the exit poll showed Whitman beating Brown 47-43% among “independents.” It’s exactly the same wrong result PPIC had, when it showed Whitman ahead of Brown 37-36% among “independents.”

Field and USC.LAT did not suffer the same problem because they were polling actual DTS voters. Field had independents 49-34% for Brown and, as we said before, USC/LAT had them 61-24% for Brown.

We can’t say for certain how DTS or independent voters actually split in the governor’s race because we don’t have exit poll data we can rely on. But if you look at the Field Poll as a standard — since they were almost precisely on the numbers everywhere else — and factor in the USC/LAT findings,  it’s likely that independents actually voted for Brown over Whitman by about 15 points.

This is bolstered by the fact that self-identified “moderates,” who comprised 40% of the electorate, voted for Brown over Whitman by 60-35%, according to the NEP exit poll. That compared to liberals who went 86-8% for Brown and conservatives who went 78-17% for Whitman.

One other note on the NEP exit poll: it did a lousy job of creating a sample that reflected how Californians are casting their ballots. Final figures are not available yet, but it’s expected that vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots will account for about 50% of the votes cast. But we understand that NEP/Edison only included 600 mail ballots compared to about 3,300 precinct interviews. The margin of error on those 600 mail ballots is huge compared to the rest of the survey and weighting them up would have required some ugly math — not something a reputable pollster would be proud of. The entire survey was obviously weighted to the final unofficial results — 53-42% for Brown. But whether the individual components of that total are accurate is anyone’s guess.

Tomorrow: Myth busters, including Mike Murphy’s bogus argument

Home Stretch: Meg and Jerry on Air and Ground

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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