Posts Tagged ‘Martha Coakley’



Road Trip: 3 Key Questions for the GOP Convention

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Cue the elephants: Although half of our Western Hemisphere Bureau is on Special Assignment, sampling voter opinion in Cozumel, the short-handed National Affairs Desk will try to soldier on to offer our unique brand of babble-to-babble coverage of this weekend’s Republican state convention.

The festivities promise to be the most intriguing political event since, um, Eric Massa made Glenn Beck’s head explode, as the confab bristles with crucial questions about the future of the California GOP, if not the whole damn Republic. Like:

Will Carly Fiorina stroll the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara accompanied by a Demon Sheep? Will Tom Campbell issue a white paper entitled: “Sami Al-Arian: A Man and His Music”?

Will Meg Whitman take Mitt Romney’s advice to use a little dab of Brylcreem? Will Steve Poizner unveil a cell phone GPS device that only  allows right turns?

Will Joe Garofoli try to sneak those little booze bottles from the mini-bar out in a pillowcase, bellowing that they should be included in his room rate? Will Flash Fleischman be carted off in a straitjacket from the sheer excitement of it all?

Only Calbuzz, from our skybox high above the convention floor, will answer these and other of life’s persistent questions.

You sure do ask a lot of stupid questions: Of course, it’s also true that answers to several other, um, more purely political questions may help to shape the increasingly entertaining GOP primary races for governor and U.S. Senate. Such as:

1-Will eMeg talk to the press?

Meg Whitman, the GOP’s front-runner for governor, heads for the convention coming off her worst week of the campaign since, well, since the last state Republican convention.

Her bizarre behavior at the now-infamous Union Pacific non-press conference train wreck not only attracted a ton of national media attention – here, hereherehere and here , for example – but also drew a quarter-ton of brickbats from within her own party, like the wily conservative blogger Jon “Flash” Fleischman, who’s also a state GOP officer:

I have not been in a hurry to pen a commentary on this topic as it seems like how an individual campaign handles the media is really its own business.

Except as of yesterday, we are now shifting to “embarrassing” as the adjective of choice to describe the situation of Whitman and reporters — where we are now seeing prime time television news reports about the avoiding of reporters! This is not good for Whitman, in my humble opinion, and I know it is not good for the GOP — the latter being my reason for weighing in.

A small-bore controversy at first glance, Whitman’s performance in Oakland on Monday seemed to crystallize a bundle of doubts about her candidacy – her record of failing to vote, her shyness about debates, her year-long avoidance of serious press interviews, her refusal to release her tax returns, her disinclination to avoid any but the most controlled campaign events – that can be summed up in the question: Who is Meg Whitman?

eMeg’s sprint to the head of the pack has been built entirely on the strength of millions in paid advertising. Now her imperious behavior, however, has got the press corps snarling and growling, which could make things unpleasant for her, at best, should the pack go into full barking and baying mode.

One good way to soothe the beasts would be to make herself available for a full-blown press conference at the convention, in which she handles every question that comes at her, by herself, without restrictions and without the help of press handlers or down field blocks from campaign thugs.

2-How hard will Poizner hit illegal immigration?

Still far behind eMeg in the polls, Steve Poizner is showing signs of gaining some traction with his recent red meat offerings to the GOP right-wing, a faction over-represented among the grassroots convention attendees.

The V.C. Star’s Timm Herdt has smartly noted the emphasis that Poizner has been putting on the issue of illegal immigration, among the most visceral concerns of conservative voters.

With eMeg having expressed her distaste for the milestone Proposition 187, Poizner will work all weekend to rally the troops around this and other filet mignon matters; if he succeeds, he could build up some steam heading out of the weekend and into next Monday’s first debate with Her Megness.

“Meg’s message so far has been very muddled,” said one veteran GOP consultant who’s not playing in the governor’s race. “Steve is now talking directly to the conservative base and what he’s saying has some edge to it.”

3-What’s the Tea Party going to do?

As the aforementioned Chronicler Garafoli reported, a busload battalion of Tea Party types plan to raise the flag at the convention, which could make for some interesting political theater:

There may not be any candidate debates at the GOP hoedown this weekend, but the pitchfork and torch crowd will be welcomed home like prodigal children….angry prodigal children. Is there a family therapist in the house?

“Probably 70 percent to 80 percent of our supporters are disaffected Republicans,” TP Express spokesman Joe Wierzbicki told us Monday. So while the Tea P has problems with both parties, they have a better chance to affect change by changing the GOP, he said.

“By us being there, I’m sure people will be wondering,’Is the Republican Party selling out to the Tea Party?’ or ‘Is the Tea Party selling out to the Republican Party?’ People can have that discussion. I’m sure it’s a little bit of both,” he said.

Good times.

For conservatives, the energy and the passion of the political moment reside squarely with the Tea Party crowd, and their enthusiasm for a candidate can make a difference in a close race. Just ask Senator Martha Coakley, D-Mass.

One beneficiary of it this weekend will likely be Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, the right-wing’s favorite son in the three-way GOP primary for the nomination to oppose Senator Barbara Boxer in the fall. As Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina beat each other’s brains in on issues like Israel and internet taxes, you can make an argument that DeVore is the only guy in the race with a clear, identifiable political base.

As the Tea Party’s tribune, DeVore could make things interesting if either Campbell or Fiorina fades, and he’s left standing as the conservative foil to a moderate front-runner.

All that said, the biggest question of the weekend convention is: How much does it really matter?

Traditionally, Republican conventions have been pep rallies for grassroots folks who ring doorbells, make phone calls and help organize modest fundraisers. But California’s zillionaire candidates are running for governor on television, period, and their presence at the state convention is something of a courtesy call.

This is especially true of Whitman whom, our sources tell us, has already bought a staggering $12.6 million in cable and broadcast time. That kind of campaign plan renders party activism and enthusiasm largely irrelevant.

Sure, it’s nice to have some excitement generated from the base and sure, convention types represent some votes themselves and with the people they can bring to the dance.

But it’s not like the old days (“We walked 12 miles to school, through the snow, barefoot!”) when a candidate for governor stone cold needed hard-core party activists. eMeg, especially, has no need for actual people, except perhaps as props.

A final note: Calbuzzer Don Ringe imagines eMeg and The Commish encountering each other in the convention hotel hallway.

eMeg’s Money Pit, Maldo vs Pedro, Spin & Marty

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Wannabe Governor Meg Whitman tossed another $20 million into the pot like so much couch dust this week, leaving Republican primary rival Steve Poizner to whine about her per unit Return On Investment.

“Twenty million dollars bought Meg 45 percent of likely Republican voters in a January poll,” a Poizner flack sniped, pointing to the first $20 million personal check Her Megness wrote to her campaign. “That’s (sic) means Meg has so far spent $444,444.44 for every percentage point.”

Yeah, and…so what? It’s not like Republicans have something against rich people spending their own money.

Team Poizner also recycled the observation, by blogger Bill Bradley, that the $40 million eMeg  generously donated to herself, six months before the primary, already matches what Governor Al Checchi, the previous record holder, self-funded during his entire, miserably failed 1998 bid for the Democratic nomination.

True that, but again, what’s the point?

The bottom line is that Whitman’s lavish spending has bought her two, very valuable things in the race: 1) she’s clearly established herself as the front-runner, if not yet the GOP presumptive nominee, and; 2) she’s accomplished this largely with an under-the-radar radio campaign that has managed to avoid triggering a she’s-trying-to-buy-the-election backlash, at least outside of insider circles.

For Whitman, $40 million is chump change, a tiny sliver of her billionaire fortune; if it’s working, why not keep working it? Poizner made a brief splash last month by fronting a mere $15 Large of his own dough, but given his below-par outside fund-raising to date, Smokestack Steve will have to go to the wallet for a lot more than that to catch Monoxide Meg.

Brown-Coakley redux: With no exit polls from the big Massachusetts Senate race – who can afford them these days? – we’re unfortunately left with a wide-open bazaar of conflicting, unconfirmable  theories about what happened, none of them based on data.

That said, the most interesting take we’ve seen comes from Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who advances the case that Republican Scott Brown’s late surge past rival and erstwhile front-runner Martha Coakley coincided with the release and publication of two robo-polls (so-called IVR polls, which auto-dial respondents) and which apparently triggered the flood of web fund-raising that boosted Brown. Mellman, writing in The Hill (HT to Gale Kaufman for the link):

(W)ithout the close polls, the circumstances that made Republican victory possible would have been insufficient to bring it about. The polls were the spark that ignited the dry kindling on the forest floor. Without the spark provided by the polls, though, there would have been no conflagration.

Is there anything wrong with polls influencing elections? If the polls were accurate reflections of reality, it’s hard to complain. Though we will never know for sure, my own strong sense is that these two IVR auto-dial polls significantly overstated Brown’s support when they were completed.

Another chewy take-out: the Washpost’s Chris Cillizza at “The Fix” lists five “myths” about the Bay State election: 1) Brown didn’t win, Coakley lost it; 2) Brown’s win means health care is dead; 3) Dems are headed for oblivion in mid-terms; 4) Obama’s brand is dead; 5) Mass. Voters won’t elect a woman.  It’s here.

The daily fix for our T-Ridge jones: Anthony York, over at  “California Politics,” the online collaboration between the LAT and Capitol Weekly, posted a juicy little report on the spat between Lite Gov. Wannabe Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Pedro Nava over Calbuzz’s idée fixe, the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil project.

Lobbying in print for his confirmation. state Senator Maldo reminded York of his past consistent opposition to the project,  insisting the offshore issue should not derail his appointment:

“I’ve voted against the proposal three times,” Maldonado said. “As lieutenant governor, I would take each issue as it comes before the commission, but I don’t know how much clearer I can be on that issue.”

Maldo also ripped Assemblyman and AG Wannabe Nava (D-Tree Hugger), who told Calbuzz earlier that he believes the Republican senator pledged support for T-Ridge before Schwarzmuscle nominated him for lite gov.

“It’s so crazy,” said Maldonado. “No deal has been cut.” Nava is “spreading stories that have absolutely no basis in fact.”

When asked about Maldonado’s comments, Nava said, “It’s hard for me to believe there wasn’t an agreement reached” between Schwarzenegger and Maldonado. “Let him sign a written public pledge that he will vote no on T-Ridge. Then I might feel some comfort.”

This just in: T-Ridge foes were caught by surprise when the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended Thursday that the Legislature approve the project. While it’s a fairly tepid endorsement, coming after a laundry list of policy criticisms of the proposal, it’s an endorsement nonetheless, and from a very influential source:

While the Legislature will want to evaluate the proposal accounting for the policy concerns that have been raised, it should weigh these concerns against the opportunity to gain much-needed revenues for the General Fund. Analyzing the potential risks and trade-offs, we find, on balance, that the Tranquillon Ridge proposal merits legislative approval.

Jerry’s time warp: Crusty the General’s offhand reference to Mike Curb this week was just the latest evidence that he’s in danger of being stuck in a pre-1980s time warp. Here’s the Calbuzz Next Ten list of folks we look for Brown to reference in coming weeks:

1-Spin & Marty
2-S.I. Hayakawa
3-John Brodie
4-Gale Storm
5-Houston Flournoy
6-Willie Kirkland
7-Ozzie Nelson Dr. Irwin Corey
8-Caryl Chessman
9-Earl “The Pearl” Monroe
10-Wavy Gravy

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Weird hair showdown pits Donald Trump vs. Lady Gaga.


Boston Massacre Has Implications for California

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

060-238Whatever the loss of Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat means for the Democrats nationally and for President Obama – and they have no one to blame but themselves — this historic and politically crippling massacre  (see Jon Stewart’s takedown, the best political analysis out there) carries huge potential implications for California.

While no one expects U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer to make the kind of rookie, dumbass, arrogant mistakes that Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley made (she’d better not suggest, for example, that Willie Mays played for the Dodgers)*, the election of Republican state legislator Scott Brown in a true-blue state like Massachusetts, suggests that anyone who looks or smells like an incumbent could be in trouble in 2010.

Scott-Brown_Hubba_copy

Senator Elect Scott Brown

No doubt, Republicans Hurricane Carly Fiorina and Caveman Chuck DeVore would have a harder time against the Democrat Boxer because as pro-life conservatives they’d have more trouble connecting to California independents.

But Tom Campbell is a horse of a different color. If he were to somehow pull out a victory in the GOP primary, the pro-choice, pro-gay rights, somewhat green, social moderate and fiscal conservative would be a genuine threat to Boxer – especially in light of the pitchfork-bearing quality of the Massachusetts vote.

Taking nothing for granted, Boxer has been raising money at a record pace for her: she brought in $1.8 million in the last three months of 2009, the campaign announced Tuesday, leaving Babs with $7.2 million in the bank at the end of the year.

The dynamics of the Massachusetts race have some potential implications for the California’s governor’s race as well. Whoever emerges from the Republican side – eMeg Whitman or Steve Commish Poisner – their goal will be to portray Attorney Gen. Jerry Brown as the insider who must be thrown out. Of course Jerry, the incumbent attorney general and former two-term governor, will do everything he can to portray himself as an outsider, newcomer and insurgent.barbara-boxer

And in both the Senate and governor’s race, we expect the Democrats to sound a lot like one of the roving 1886 lecturers cited in “The Populist Movement” by Duke historian Larry Goodwyn:

We have an overproduction of poverty, barefooted women, political thieves and many liars. There is no difference between legalized robbery and highway robbery . . . If you listen to other classes, you will have only three rights . . . to work, to starve and to die.

Boxer and Brown — we predict — will run against the banks, the corporations and the oil companies — all of which will be lashed to their GOP opponents.  Whether voters will buy it is anyone’s guess. The Coakley defeat will be massively overinterpreted by the national media (the best evidence is that it was mostly a case of a truly crappy Democratic campaign). But still, the Boston Massacre should be a cautionary tale for California Democrats.

061-460Here’s the secret agreement: Some of the sharpest react we heard from Monday’s story about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering over the Tranquillon Ridge project came over the Environmental Defense Center’s agreement to advocate for the PXP oil company project, while receiving a $100,000 payment for reimbursement of legal fees from the firm.

“I’ve never heard of any environmental non-profit doing anything remotely like this,” said Mark Massara, a former longtime attorney-advocate for the Sierra Club.

By popular demand, we’re posting the text in pdf of the April 2008 EDC-PXP agreement here, for those who want even more detail than we gave you in Monday’s 3,000-word opus.

conanMeanwhile, Back at the Ranch: While the rest of the world was pondering the fate of Haiti and the future of the Democratic Party and health reform, the folks over at Jerry Brown headquarters were consumed by the great debate that’s ragiing from Hollywood to Brentwood: Conan vs. Jay . . . And Steve the Commish Poizner popped a bit of good news: He’s won the endorsement of former Gov. George Deukmejian, who is much preferred among GOP conservatives to former Gov. Pete Wilson, who has endorsed eMeg.  Said Deukmejian: “Steve is the only candidate in this race with the right mix of experience, leadership, and vision to lead California back to economic prosperity.”. . . Minorities Need Apply: Good piece by Pete Carrillo and Orson Aguilar in the Mercury News noting that while “California reform-minded voters gave themselves the power to redraw legislative lines in California when they passed Proposition 11, the Voters First Act . . . an alarmingly low percentage of people of color is included in the pool of applicants from whom the 14 commissioners ultimately will be chosen. Less than 20 percent of that pool now is people of color, even though they make up 60 percent of California’s population.” . . . Condolences: We note with sadness the passing of Margaret Whitman, 89, of Lexington, Mass., mother of Meg Whitman.

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* Some of Coakley’s mistakes: She said the Taliban were gone from Afghanistan. She said Red Sox hero Curt Schilling was a Yankee fan. And when asked why she was not spending more time with voters (Brown had stood outside Fenway Park greeting hockey fans who attended a special outdoor game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers) Coakley said, “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?”