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Posts Tagged ‘Garry South’



Why Kashkari’s Electoral Project Is a Total Failure

Friday, October 31st, 2014

ijackol001p4Neel Kashkari has argued throughout the 2014 campaign that he could alter the dynamics of party politics in California by demonstrating that a Republican who is socially moderate and economically conservative can win – or at least run competitively – in a race for governor.

The final Field Poll of the season demonstrates that thesis has failed. Kashkari is doing no better, and in most cases worse, than the no-name, down-ballot Republicans running for every other constitutional office: lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, controller, treasurer and insurance commissioner.

It’s not Kashkari who has demonstrated appeal to moderates, independents and dissatisfied partisans from across the aisle; it’s Gov. Jerry Brown who has done exactly this – running stronger than any of his party comrades down the ballot.

As Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, described Kashkari’s effort rather indelicately: “Evidence would suggest his campaign has had no effect.”

At the same time, DiCamillo observed, “Jerry Brown has done well. His tenure in office is giving him surplus votes beyond what any of the other Democrats are getting.”

xerxesWill Kashkari beat GOP turnout? Although actual voter registration is 43% Democrat, 28% Republican, 23% no party preference (NPP) and 5% other, the Field Poll’s survey sample — based on the actual voter file and expected turnout in a low-interest election — calculates an electorate that is 43% Democrat, 34% Republican and 23% NPP and other.

Nevertheless, Brown leads Kashkari 54-33% — just beating the all-important Calbuzz line – with broad appeal across race, age, gender, region and ideology.

“Kashkari’s argument that he’s doing something unique is not true,” said DiCamillo. “In fact, Brown is doing something unique: he’s pulling support beyond his base to a much greater extent than any other Democrat on the ballot.”

Kashkari is drawing just 76% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives while Brown is supported by 83% of Democrats and 90% of liberals. In the middle, Brown beats Kashkari 59-22% among NPP voters and 55-25% among moderates.

In other races down the ballot, the Field Poll finds:

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) over Ron Nehring (R) 47-37%
Attorney General: Kamala Harris (D) over Ronald Gold (R) 49-36%
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla (D) over Pete Peterson (R) 44-37%
Controller: Betty Yee (D) over Ashley Swearengin (R) 44-36%
Treasurer: John Chiang (D) over Greg Conlin (R) 46-35%
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones (D) over Ted Gaines (R) 45-33%

TorlaksonAndTuckSupe of PI an Actual Battle The only race at all competitive is the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction – a non-partisan race – in which Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck are tied at 28%, with 44% undecided. Both candidates are Democrats but eschewing party labels.

Torlakson leads by 7% among white non-Hispanic voters while Tuck is preferred by Latino, black and Asian voters. But Torlakson is favored by liberals while Tuck is leading among conservatives.

Clearly the lack of party identification gives voters fewer cues by which to guide their votes.

Which leads back to Kashkari’s fundamental problem: he’s a Republican in a state where the GOP brand is dog meat. And he’s running against a governor who is widely seen as doing a good job at guiding state government and moderating the liberal leanings of the Legislature.

Moreover, Kashkari’s basic premise – that California is going to hell in a hand basket – is simply not believable to voters who’ve seen the state budget balanced, partisan rancor cooled and slow but steady economic recovery throughout the state under Brown’s leadership.

Kashkari’s best argument for his project would seem to be that while taking moderate stances on abortion, immigration and gay marriage – breaks from the standard California Republican ideology – he’s at least not doing much worse than the run-of-the-mill GOP contenders.

But for all his attempts to reach beyond the traditional Republican base, Kashkari trails Brown among Latinos 62-23% and among women 57-28%. Some outreach.

hooverThe Props and Hoover’s Goof The Field Poll also reported that while Brown’s pet project – Proposition 1 (water bonds) – leading handily and other polls have show Brown’s Proposition 2 (rainy day fund) also ahead, Proposition 45 (giving the insurance commissioner controlling review of health insurance rate changes, and Proposition 46 (increasing malpractice awards and drug testing doctors) both are headed to defeat.

The Field Poll’s finding on Prop. 45 – 42% no to 30% yes – is similar to the finding from the Public Policy Institute of California, which had it 46-39% no. But it differed from a poll put out by the Hoover Institution (done by YouGov) which had Prop. 45 leading 42-30%.

It appears however, the Hoover’s poll grossly miscalculates the electorate: on the Prop. 45 question, for example, it’s got 50% Democrats, 24% Republicans and 21% independents; 56% whites and 23% Hispanics; and 33% voters aged 18-34. Those are all way off what most experts expect and it over-samples in all the demographics that are more supportive of Prop. 45.

On the other hand, in a question asked of Kashkari supporters, Hoover had one finding that was pretty interesting (and not dependent on sample size).

Only 29% of his backers said “I’m mostly voting for Neel Kashkari” while 69% (including 70% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives) said “I’m mostly voting against Jerry Brown.”

The Field Poll interviewed  1,536 randomly selected registered voters Oct. 15-28 by land line and cell phone, including 941 likely voters. The maximum margin of error of likely voters is +/- 3.4 percentage points. The Hoover Institution’s  YouGov poll was conducted Oct. 3-17, with an internet panel of 1,273, including an over-sample of 273 interviews with 18-34 year-olds. The alleged margin of error for the entire sample (used for virtually none of the questions) was +/- 3.65%. This, however, is a misnomer: margin of error pertains to probability sampling and using an internet panel and matching or weighting it to various known sample populations is, by definition, not a random sample.

Hasta la Vista GOP, or Why Cesar Chavez Lives On

Monday, March 28th, 2011

As a union organizer, Cesar Chavez, whose birthday we commemorate today, was no friend of immigrants who slipped across the border illegally to provide cheap labor in the fields of California that undercut the drive for living wages for farm workers.

Hell, the United Farm Workers was known to have reported illegal strike-breakers to “la migra,” and in 1973, they set up a “wet line” (imagine the outrage if anyone else had used the term) along the US-Mexico border to stop immigrants from sneaking into the country illegally and undermining the UFW’s work organizing field hands.

But Chavez – especially in his later years — was a strong proponent of allowing illegal immigrants living and working here to become legalized, and today would surely be fighting for a path to citizenship, as his granddaughter, Dr. Cynthia Chavez, made clear in a TV ad for Jerry Brown during the 2010 governor’s race.

Which makes today the perfect opportunity to focus on an issue that Calbuzz has hammered on repeatedly – the need for California Republicans to support a path to citizenship for illegal and undocumented workers. Not because it’s the right and decent thing to do – never a powerful argument with the knuckle-dragging wing of the GOP — but because it’s a matter of their party’s political survival.

Failure to communicate: Don’t take our word for it. Some of the smartest Republicans around make the case. “A pathway to citizenship for those who have entered the country illegally is the most important element of immigration reform for Latino voters,” wrote Marty Wilson and Bob Moore, after a recent Moore Information survey of Latino voters in California.

According to the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, about nine in 10 Latinos (86%) favor giving illegal immigrants “a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status.” That’s a position shared by 68% of Democrats and 62% of independents but just 41% of Republicans.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. And the political effects are profound.

“Latino voters are widely negative about the Republican Party (26% favorable/47% unfavorable/27% no opinion) and widely positive about the Democrat[ic] Party (62/22/17),” Wilson and Moore wrote. Nor is the GOP “going to win many Latino voters by stressing conservatism; only 22% suggest that Republicans should, ‘stick to core values and nominate true Conservatives.’

Fully a third of Latino voters say they will never vote for a Republican although another third would consider GOP candidates if “Republicans move toward the center and nominate candidates who are less conservative.”

The big picture: To appreciate the magnitude of the challenge for the Republicans in California, it helps to understand first the national context.

During the past decade, the Latino population in the U.S. grew 43 times faster than the non-Hispanic white population, the Census Bureau reported last week. Between 2000 and 2010 the U.S. Hispanic population grew 43%, to 50.5 million from 35.3 million. Latinos’ share of the total population rose to 16% from 13% — accounting for more than half the total U.S. population growth in the decade.

At the same time, Census Bureau officials reported, the non-Hispanic white population grew by barely more than 1 percent, dropping as a portion of the total from to 64% from 69%.

“The states with the largest percent growth in their Hispanic populations include nine where the Latino population more than doubled, including a swath in the southeast United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The Hispanic population also more than doubled in Maryland and South Dakota,” reports the Pew Hispanic Center in an analysis of the Census Bureau report.

“In six states, growth in the Hispanic population accounted for all of those states’ population growth; if the Hispanic population had not grown, those states would not have grown,” Pew added. “They included Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. In Michigan, the state population declined over the decade but the Hispanic population grew.”

No place to hide: While Latinos in Florida, New York, Illinois and California cannot be viewed as a monolithic voting bloc – voters of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Haitian and Mexican ancestry, for example, cannot be easily categorized politically – surveys consistently find a common thread is a belief that there ought to be a mechanism for allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents and/or full citizens.

And with the continued growth of Hispanics, red states are becoming less reliable safe harbors for Republicans (consider Nevada, for example) and so too are formerly “safe” Republican districts in California.

“Increasingly for California Republicans, there’s no place to run, no place to hide,” said Democratic consultant Garry South who, with former Republican state Sen. Jim Brulte, recently analyzed the changing electoral landscape for their partners at California Strategies.

“The demographics are moving so heavily against them, it’s becoming very difficult to maintain a meaningful number of completely safe GOP seats almost anywhere.

“Most of the huge Latino growth between 2000 and 2010 was in inland areas normally considered Republican, not along the coast,” South said “And Asians grew by even more than Latinos. Together, Latinos and Asian Americans now constitute an absolute majority of Californians. Republicans are getting on average about 30-35 percent of their votes. Do the math.”

Said South and Brulte in their analysis:

Based upon the historical standard of “safe” verses “competitive” districts, there will likely be a few more competitive legislative and congressional districts. That said, given that the top two vote getters regardless of political party run off in the November general election, the historical notion of “safe” districts now no longer applies.

 

While many GOP legislators, donors and activists, believe a “fair” redistricting presents a great opportunity, there is also a huge potential downside risk for the GOP as well. If the Democratic Party’s consistently overwhelming financial advantage is not countered at the legislative level, it is possible that Democrats [will] obtain a two-thirds majority in one or both houses of the state Legislature in 2012.

 

The GOP has not experienced a net pick up of legislative seats in a presidential election since 1984.

The Elephants’ elephant: In their analysis of Latino voters, Wilson and Moore call immigration “the elephant in the GOP living room.” The Arizona immigration law is widely unpopular among Latino voters, immigration reform is widely popular and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be trusted, by a ratio 0f 57-21%, to reform immigration laws.

And the central issue is a pathway to citizenship.

Why is it so hard for Republicans to move on this issue? Because – partly in fear of an influx of Democratic-leaning voters – they’ve spent years railing against illegal immigration and appealing to the most nativistic and xenophobic impulses of their base voters. Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman – who otherwise might have been quite moderate on the issue – tacked so far right on immigration they made themselves pariahs among Latino voters in the 2010 governor’s race.

Even Mike Murphy, who made a bloody fortune leading Whitman’s disastrous 2010 campaign for governor, seems to have gotten the point. The GOP is saddled with a “base-driven strategy that has injected red-hot rhetoric into our party’s message on immigration” he told the Washington Post. “Primary politics have made the situation even worse,” Murphy said, suggesting as Chris Cillizza reported,  that GOP opposition to some sort of path toward legalization is a “non-starter” for Hispanic voters. No duh.

Wilson and Moore tested one message they believe can help the GOP find greater favor among Latinos. “A candidate who says, ‘secure the border first, stop illegal immigration, then find a way to address the status of people already here illegally’ gets a favorable reaction from 73%,” they found.

Others have suggested the GOP could favor legal residency, but not full citizenship with the right to vote, for undocumented workers. Still others say if an illegal immigrant serves in the U.S. military or graduates from college, he or she ought to be able to become a citizen.

How the keepers of the John Tanton anti-immigrant flame in California would react to a movement within the California Republican Party (or by a statewide GOP candidate) toward a more moderate line on immigration is, sadly, predictable. The phrase “head on a stick” comes to mind.

“I don’t think a Republican candidate can win on this issue either way in California,” said South “If they support a path to citizenship, they enrage and alienate their lily-white base. If they oppose it or try to straddle the issue, they just become the typical anti-immigrant Republican who wants to deport every Latino back to Mexico. They’re fucked. Hee, hee.”

Happy Cesar Chavez Day!

Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

Berkeley Gov Panel Outrage; Brown’s Bitter Medicine

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The Calbuzz State, National, International, Global and Intergalactic Desks will be attending the quadrennial governor’s race post-mortem sponsored by the august Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley Jan. 21-22. We’ve already noted our disappointment and disgust that no one from eMeg Whitman’s loser campaign has accepted an invitation to attend what has always been an informative conference.

Now we are incredulous that the head of the program, Ethan Rarick, chose not to invite either the chief strategist or the campaign manager for Gavin Newsom’s bid for governor to the upcoming conference. Nor has he included on the panels anyone from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News or the Associated Press. Not to mention Calitics or Flash Report or any other on-line media outlet.

Rarick insists he did what IGS has always done – allowed the campaigns to pick their spokespeople. But in a Nov. 18 email to strategist Garry South – who was the key player in the Newsom campaign for governor for 15 months – he said, “After some consideration, I decided not to put you on the panel representing Newsom since you went on to run a competing campaign against Newsom, and therefore I think you cannot really represent the Newsom viewpoint.”

Which is bullshit, since Newsom dropped out of the governor’s race in October, South joined Janice Hahn’s campaign for lite gov in December, and Newsom didn’t jump into the LG’s race until mid-March. Nor does it explain why he didn’t invite Nick Clemons, the Newsom campaign’s day-to-day manager and former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party who ran five successful state campaigns for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Rarick said he spoke to Newsom “through an intermediary” who said the former SF Mayor wanted Peter Ragone, who was an unpaid communications adviser to the campaign, to represent him. We have nothing against Peter. He’s a friend. But he wasn’t in the daily nitty-gritty of the campaign and we suspect can’t really add much to the historical record – which is what the IGS post-mortem is supposed to be all about. (See Rarick, E, “California Votes.”)

Rarick also chose four journalists to moderate panels – three from the By God (“maybe they’ll subsidize us”) Los Angeles Times,  two of whom (both from the Times) didn’t actually, you know, cover the campaign, leaving out of the mix people like Carla Marinucci, Joe Garafoli, Jack Chang, Juliet Williams, Judy Lin, Ken McLaughlin, Steve Harmon and others who labored day-in and day-out to keep California informed.

When we told Rarick that some reporters who busted their asses covering the campaign were insulted that they’d been stepped over, Rarick told us, “If they’re offended or insulted I’m sorry, but I’m not terribly concerned if they feel insulted.”

Interestingly, after we got off the phone with Rarick, we got a call from our old friend Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors of Sacramento and Chairman of the IGS National Advisory Council – the program’s chief fundraiser.

He wondered why we’d been beating up on poor Ethan on the phone. We explained why, in a perhaps intemperate voice in which the words “craven” and “boot-licking” may have been uttered.

But when we asked Darius why Rarick had said he’d been the one who decided not to invite South or why Clemons hadn’t been asked to participate, Anderson asked: “Do you think it would be smart to piss off a member of the Board of Regents?”

Ah, ha. So when Rarick wrote in his book on the 2006 post-mortem that “the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns,” he forgot to add, “unless they piss off a Regent, in which case we redact them.”

Take that, California! Tom Meyer’s instantly iconic image of the supersized suppository Jerry Brown believes will cure what ails state finances provides a clear and unflinching look at the challenge the new/old governor faces in ramming his fiscal fix through the body politic.

The half-cuts, half taxes prescription that Dr. Silver Fox is offering is already drawing shrieks of terror, both from goofballs on the left and nitwits on the right, not to mention newly-minted solons whose goo-goo concerns about the realignment of state and local government responsibilities apparently keep them awake nights, or OCD-crazed process junkies who insist nothing in the Capitol can be done in ONLY SIX WEEKS!

Amid all the predictable grievance-peddling, umbrage-taking and bumper strip sloganeering that has greeted Brown’s presentation of the first honest budget in memory, none rankles more than the cuckoo caucus’s insistence that California voters do not deserve the right to decide for themselves whether or not to raise their own taxes.

Thus, a surly collection of Howard Jarvis fetishists, union bashers and gold standard crackpots summoned the press this week to hurl mighty oaths and cheap threats at any Republican lawmaker who might dare think about casting a procedural vote to put Brown’s plan on the ballot:

“From the perspective of taxpayers, any official who supports placing a tax increase on the ballot is expressly supporting that tax increase,” said their statement.

With all due respect to the ringleaders of this ragtag outfit, our friends Jon Fleischman and Jon Coupal, who elected you guys to anything? (Come to think of it, Fleischman was elected as the state GOP’s Chief Deputy Undercommisar for Enforcement of Non-Deviationist Thinking, but that doesn’t really go to our point).

Do you honestly believe that people aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves what’s in their best interest? Or is it just that you live in mortal fear of what they might say? Hmmm?

Press Clip:  Moments after Calbuzz finally received in the mail the handsome fake gold tie clasps commemorating our capture of Second Place in the 2010 Best Correction sweepstakes, word reached here that our chances of repeating in 2011 already are at huge risk.

Seems that self-styled media critic Howard Kurtz, who’s trying to reinvent himself as a cool new media guy after spending a couple centuries at the WashPost, has not only committed a boner for the ages, but also covered it up for six weeks, then promptly tried to pin the blame on someone else.

As first reported at Gawker, Howie the Putz last November churned out a beastly post about California Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP’s Torquemada, and his plans to re-institute the Inquisition on Capitol Hill. The piece was based on a rather long telephone interview with Issa.

Except it wasn’t.

Turns out that during his no doubt probing interview, Howie was actually talking to, um,  Issa’s flak. A small factoid that Kurtz chose not to share with his readers for over a month, before he assured them it wasn’t his fault anyway. Exactly the kind of top-drawer ethical journalism that we’ve come to expect from this fraud.

Jason Linkins at Huffpo has the best take.

Block that Dick: Now that Obama’s enjoying a little uptick in the polls, we’re betting the White House staff redoubles their efforts to keep him off the phone for any locker room calls he’s inclined to make during this weekend’s NFL divisional round.

Obama stepped in it a few weeks back, when he rang up the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to congratulate him for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance, after Vick’s imprisonment for canine serial killing, a bonehead move that earned the president the wrath of pooch lovers across the political spectrum.

Tevi Troy now provides full context for the misstep, in a lovely little piece recounting the many problems presidents have had with football through the ages:

Even back in the 1920s, when gridiron great Red Grange visited the White House, the laconic Calvin Coolidge bizarrely said “Nice to meet you, young man. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” But Coolidge’s comment was relatively harmless to his presidency. Other presidents have made enough mistakes on football to populate an entire blooper bowl, particularly Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s poor judgment in sending failed football plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen prompted the columnist Art Buchwald to write “If George Allen doesn’t accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football’s greatest coaches.”

And in 1969, Nixon handed University of Texas coach Darrell Royal a plaque after his team defeated Arkansas and completed an undefeated season. The problem was that Penn State also went undefeated that season, and the national title, which was decided by the AP and UPI polls in those pre-BCS days, went to the Longhorns. Penn State fans have forever blamed Nixon for Texas finishing No. 1 that year. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was so bitter that, years later, he publicly wondered, “How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?”

Calbuzz picks: Take the points and Ravens, Packers & Seahawks, give the points and take the Pats.

Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack greatly enhanced his reputation as the Perle Mesta of California Monday night, as he tossed the toughest-ticket bash of Inaugural Week, featuring fine cuisine and libation, fine fellowship and the brightest stars in the state’s glittering political firmament.

In a political social whirl otherwise dominated by an event where the big payoff was a couple of dogs and a small bag of chips, Calbuzz party organizers agreed with each other that their gathering of First Amendment scumbags and rapacious consultants was by far the best shindig of the week.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor H., he missed his own soiree, after passing out cold beneath a banquet room table from rapidly throwing down 13 or 14  double Jamesons on the rocks several hours before his guests arrived.

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.

Consistent with the post-post-partisan values and ethics of Calbuzz — which hold that folks of differing political persuasions are to view their rivals not as bitter enemies, but as nutty neighbors — Republican operatives like Adam Mendelsohn, Jim Brulte, Kevin Spillane, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund (special kudos to Rob Stutzman and Mitch Zak for being the only ex-members of the GOP’s Legions of eMeg with the stones to show up) mixed and mingled with leading Democratic lights, including Tom Quinn, David Townsend, Joe Trippi, Donna Bojarsky, Jim Moore, Steve Glazer, Jason Kinney, Roger Salazar, Steve Maviglio, Karen Skelton  and Garry South (whose frequent harsh criticisms of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor make him an intraparty marked man, matched Stutz and Zak’s raw courage in taking his place  at the festivities), while other hacks (widely suspected of  RINO tendencies by some in the Neanderthal Caucus) including Jack Flanigan, Bob Naylor, Donna Lucas and Don Sipple, added to a gemutlicht ambience of general hilarity.

Along with members of the Capitol press corps that Calbuzz actually knows (apologies to Sactown hacks we don’t know), world-class media types, including New York Times L.A. bureau chief Adam Ngourney, by-God L.A. Times sage George Skelton and national political correspondent Mark Barabak, A.P. political writers Juliet Williams and Judy Lin and KCRA-TV’s inimitable Kevin Riggs sprinkled the crowd, as Greg Lucas of “California’s Capitol,” Joel Fox of “Fox and Hounds” and Torey Van Oot of “Capitol Alert” ably represented the political blogosphere and blindingly insightful eggheads and policy makers like Dan Schnur, H.D. Palmer, Dave Lesher, Nancy McFadden and Peter Schrag raised the average I.Q. of the room at least a point or two.

Here stood newly sworn-in governor Brown, huddling with newly named Resources Secretary John Laird over matters of apparent great urgency.

There was new First Lady Anne Gust, explaining to an astonished inaugural witness how she was surprised to find out she was introducing her husband about two minutes before his swearing in.

Across the room,  almost Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom passionately held forth on the insider intricacies of San Francisco politics that have delayed his swearing in (see Agnos, Art and his five votes).

We even have a boozy recollection of overhearing Krusty and the Prince dividing up the world: Gavin focuses on economic development and UC and stays out of Jerry’s way as he tries to run the government. Such a deal.

Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office.

A good time was had by all, except for the aforementioned, utterly plastered Dr. H. There were no injuries.