Posts Tagged ‘pre-primary’



Last Chance for Poizner: Make the Case for Himself

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As the PPIC poll made clear last week, Steve Poizner, as of the middle of May, got himself within striking distance of Meg Whitman. But unless he makes all the right moves in the next week or so, he’s toast. In fact, it may already be too late for The Commish: he may have missed his chance to put his puny boot on eMeg’s wattle.

Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is in part a victim of her own success. So thoroughly had she dominated the airwaves and the GOP contest for so long, that only her message was out there, sending her to an unsustainable 61-11% lead over Poizner, the Insurance Commissioner.

So when Poizner FINALLY put some money behind attacking eMeg for her connections to Goldman Sachs, her stand on immigration, her voting record and more, he inevitably brought her down to Earth. In the process, he moved up against her in most polls. Private surveys Calbuzz trusts showed the race had narrowed to about 6-8 points in the first week of May.

It looked as if Poizner might be moving in for the kill. We hear pollsters were finding that he’d driven her unfavorable rating WAY up. GOP primary voters were looking around for somewhere to go. They didn’t like her much because she was tied to Goldman, she was wishy-washy on immigration and she looked kinda arrogant and out of touch. Not like them.

But Poizner a) didn’t sustain the character/ideology attacks and b) didn’t give voters any sense of what he would do, how he would lead or why they should switch to him. After months of singing, “Just you wait Mrs. Whitman, just you wait,” Poizner’s much-anticipated assault was kinda like him: not quite forceful enough.

While we’re awaiting the final pre-primary surveys from Field and the L.A. Times, those private pollsters say now that Poizner’s failure to make a case for himself has allowed those voters whom he shook lose from Whitman to begin to drift back to her in the past week.

Looking back over all of Poizner’s advertising since late March, there are only a few ads in which he gives voters any sense of who he is and what he would do as governor. His negatives on her – on immigration amnesty, support for Barbara Boxer, representing a third term for Arnold Schwarzenegger, supporting tax-payer funded abortion, her voting record, her ties to Goldman Sachs and opposition to Arizona’s immigration law – combined to have an effect.

But why should anyone vote for Poizner? If TV viewers were still listening  after he got done attacking Whitman, they might have caught the briefest mention of him saying he’ll cut taxes, cut spending, support Arizona’s approach to illegal immigration and deny benefits to illegal immigrants and oppose taxpayer funded abortion. The strongest pro-argument was in an ad featuring U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican conservative icon, who said it wasn’t even a close call – Poizner is the only conservative in the race. But that ad was up for just two weeks in late April and early May.

To have any hope of winning this race, Poizner will have to:

1. Put Goldman Sachs and Whitman’s voting record into one ad that argues that eMeg is nothing more than a Wall Street predator who couldn’t even bother to participate in California politics until she decided to buy the governorship with her  ill-gotten lucre.

2. Put McClintock back on the air telling viewers why he’s for Poizner and have Poizner lay out three or four things he’ll do as governor: cut taxes and spending in order to preserve schools and law enforcement; be fair to legal immigrants and tough on illegals, protect the environment but stop job-killing red tape. Or whatever: it’s not our platform; it’s his.

The point is make the case to voters in the GOP primary that not only should they reject Whitman, they should be FOR him because he knows what he’s doing and has a plan to govern California. Or whatever honest and authentic upside message resonates.

The Whitman campaign is spinning furiously that Poizner is falling further behind every day and that he’s not even competing in the Bay Area market he recently suggested was a key to winning.

Poizner’s people insist their guy  is in it to win it – that only in a race where one candidate has blown through something like $80 million could it be a question whether a guy who’s in for $24 million is really serious.

Their argument, from chief strategist Stuart Stevens: This has turned into a race about illegal immigration, amnesty and the Arizona immigration law. And Whitman is on the wrong side from Republican primary voters. Big broad strokes. The “Whitman/Obama amnesty plan,” one ad calls it.

“The question is: who’s more conservative?” Stevens asks. Whitman, who started out with a three-point message, he says, now is “boiling the ocean” — exactly what she said she would never do. And remember, Poizner keeps noting, illegal immigration was never one of eMeg’s top three issues.

“Those who say that Steve hasn’t given voters a reason to be for him probably don’t care much about illegal immigration,” Stevens says. The Poizner ad running that goes after Mexican President Felipe Calderon suggests where Poizner will go in the coming days: they’re going to attack Mexico and argue that Whitman and Calderon are two peas in a pod.

They believe they can win by arguing that Poizner is the guy to vote FOR because he’s the only Republican running who primary voters agree with on immigration and amnesty. We’re skeptical — in part because, in the latest PPIC poll, immigration came in third among Republicans asked to name the most important issue facing Californians (immigration was at 14%, behind jobs and economy at 42% and the state budget and taxes at 24%).

It is clear, however, that Team Steve has driven the Whitman juggernaut off its fundamental three-point message. So we’re hanging on for the ride.

Jerry, eMeg and the Goldman Sachs Connection

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Moments after Jerry Brown finished a press conference at the California Democratic Convention, where he had just challenged his Republican rivals to join him in a set of pre-primary debates, Calbuzz accosted him as he strode down the hall to his next event, trying to squeeze in one extra question.

“How about Goldman Sachs?” we asked him. “How important to the campaign is Meg Whitman’s connection?”

Brown’s eyes flashed red, smoke blew from his nostrils and fire flew off his tongue, but before he could answer, campaign manager Steve Glazer rushed up to protest: “We’re not giving not any walking interviews!”

And just like that, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor thought better of his impulse, smiled slightly and said, “If I answer that, you won’t write about the debates.”

Brown, with Glazer keeping tabs

The hallway scene at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Saturday morning spoke volumes about two important elements of Brown’s campaign for governor:

On one level it was a tribute to the indefatigable efforts of Glazer to work the impossible: keeping the famously undisciplined Brown from flapping his gums and straying from his appointed message.

It was also testament to Brown’s obvious desire to open a line of full-throated populist attack on GOP front-runner Whitman — portraying her as a tribune of corporate excess and Wall Street greed and using her multiple links to Goldman Sachs as Exhibit A in making the case.

With the Securities and Exchange Commission formally charging the huge investment bank with fraud last Friday, Brown’s campaign has been handed a fresh opportunity, not only to disrupt the Whitman campaign narrative that her executive business experience splendidly qualifies her for governor, but also to perform political jujitsu on the exorbitant campaign spending eMeg is fronting with her personal fortune.

At a time when public resentment runs high against Wall Street banks, and the obscene taxpayer bailouts they’ve received, the SEC’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs is a clear and high-visibility symbol of the avarice and recklessness that fed the recession-triggering sub-prime mortgage/credit default swap/collateralized debt obligation scandal (for those still trying to cut through the complexities of this, Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” is a must-read).

No less a source than the Wall Street Journal, which included a sidebar on the governor’s race (subscription required) in its page one, double-truck Monday coverage of the SEC-Goldman case, forecast “the furor…could become a sticky issue” in the California campaign.

“Over the course of this campaign, I think the voters are going to be fully aware of Meg Whitman’s financial dealings at Goldman Sachs and they’ll hold her accountable for them,” Brown spokseman Sterling Clifford, told the Journal.

The esteemed Christian Science Monitor also weighed in with a piece on how the Goldman Sachs case could “roil” the governor’s race.

“Whitman has to demonstrate how she was not one of the black hats at Goldman Sachs. In other words, she’ll have to explain herself – not an enviable position for a candidate,”  Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., told the Monitor.

Calbuzz has previously published a leading expert’s analysis of eMeg’s involvement in the stock “spinning” scandal, perhaps the most problematic aspect of her Goldman Sachs connection, while Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci have reported on others, in a fully detailed primer on the issue  published jointly by California Watch and the Chronicle.

Candidate Meg Whitman touts her experience at eBay, the online auction hous

e that made her rich, but her career and personal fortune are entwined with another company: the Goldman Sachs investment bank, a major player in public finance in the state she wants to lead.

Whitman’s relationship with the giant Wall Street firm — as investor, corporate director and recipient of both insider stock deals and campaign donations — could pose conflicts of interest if the Republican front-runner is elected governor of California, critics say.

Some Whitman boosters, led by Republican blogger Bill Whalen, have been whistling past the graveyard, arguing that because Brown’s sister, former state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, is a former Goldman Sachs executive, Jerry Brown will be loathe to gamble on going after Her Megness on the issue.

Putting aside the total false equivalency of the comparison, Calbuzz will be more than happy to take that bet.

Meanwhile, Over in Clovis: KTVU-TV got  eMeg to respond to Brown’s call for three-way debates:  “I think it’s a political stunt to avoid giving specifics. You know,  I have a very specific policy agenda that has been outlined and Jerry has not given a single specific plan on virtually any of the crises that face California.”

Whitman, of course, is right that the debate gambit was a political stunt. But a clever one that gave  the aforementioned Glazer license to reply:

“Perhaps because she has failed to vote for most of her adult life, Ms. Whitman doesn’t understand the voters need for straight talk and honest discussion in an election. Calling an unscripted debate about the serious challenges facing California a ‘political stunt’ shows total disregard for the voters.”

Furthermore, Glazer said,  “From the fake town hall she filmed for her infomercial (coming soon to a station near you) to the 48-page photo album she calls a ‘plan’ and using a business group as a front for attack ads, Meg Whitman has run a campaign wholly based on stunts.”

Shocker: Jerry Wants 3-Way With Meg and Steve

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

In challenging Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner to an unprecedented series of pre-primary, three-way debates Brown signaled a willingness to plunge into the general election for governor even before the candidates have been chosen – as long as it’s on somebody else’s dime.

“Come out from behind those glittering poppy fields, those beautiful car crashes on top of the mountain,” he told the delegates at the California Democratic Party state convention, referring to TV ads from Republican wannabes Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. “This is going to be mano a mano, one candidate against the other. Let’s hear the different ideas.”

The partisan crowd at the Democratic state convention, many of whom have waited for months for Brown to aggressively engage in the campaign, reacted with enthusiasm. Which was job No. 1 for the weekend for the 72-year-old attorney general and presumptive party nominee.

The unexpected debate gambit – coming after advisers suggested for days that Brown would refrain from aiming fire at Whitman and Poizner – was a shrewd tactical win-win for crafty Crusty the General, for at least three reasons:

1- The debate challenge, which fired up delegates, showed nervous Democrats that Brown is no drooling Jerryiatric and will stop turning the other cheek as Republicans bash him with abandon.

Click to Gluck

2- It is an attempt to help Poizner, who’s been attacking eMeg on the airwaves for several weeks, by making her look like a chicken and fueling the narrative that she’s hiding and trying to buy the election.

3- With no heavy lifting, Brown won the news cycle and scored an ongoing talking point – What do you mean I’m not campaigning? She’s the one who’s ducking me.

“We cannot delay debating solutions. The need is immediate and millions and millions of dollars in an orgy of spending for TV commercials is not a substitute for an honest and open discussion,” Brown said.

Brown’s change of heart apparently came after he saw new private polling that reportedly shows Poizner closing the gaping margin Whitman has enjoyed in the GOP primary. He also apparently was swayed to go on the offense after seeing a Republican Governor’s Association ad – very similar to the California Chamber of Commerce “issues” ad that was pulled because it was so purely anti-Brown.

Asked at press conference after his speech what he would do if only one of the Republicans accepted the challenge, Brown said that would not do. Calbuzz asked if he really thinks they both will accept.

“I wouldn’t have made the challenge if I didn’t take into account the possibility they might accept it,” he said, drawing a laugh from reporters.

On cue, Poizner’s camp immediately accepted the invitation. Communications director Jarrod Agen:

“Steve Poizner is happy to debate his plan for California against lying corporate CEO Meg Whitman and special interest career politician Jerry Brown. We match up nicely against those two and are willing to debate anywhere, anytime. The voters of California deserve to see these candidates discuss solutions for California and answer difficult questions in an unscripted, unedited setting.”

And not surprisingly, for a campaign that is in the lead, Whitman’s chief consultant Mike Murphy, was considerably less interested:

“It a cynical ploy to elevate Poizner. Jacques must have thought up that one,” he said, referring to Jacques Barzaghi, Brown’s former inscrutable aide de camp.”Jerry should debate this own primary opponents and his own record since he’s been on every side of every issue.

Hearing that Whitman demurred, Poizner’s Agen said, “The Republican nominee will have to debate Jerry Brown. If Meg Whitman is afraid to debate him, then she should not be the Republican nominee.”

Brown, too, responded to the Whitman campaign’s rejection of the call for three-way debates:

Private corporations sometimes hide behind slick advertising campaigns, but it’s wrong for a serious political candidate to do the same.  I urge Meg Whitman to reconsider.  Surely, if she believes she is good enough to be governor of California she must also consider herself competent enough to appear with her opponents.  A candidate for public office should not act like a used car salesperson who relies on misleading TV ads.  Public service is a higher calling, one that demands integrity, openness and honesty.  I encourage Meg Whitman to join with Steve Poizner and me in three joint appearances.