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Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party State Convention’



CA GOP’s ‘Enough is Enough’ is Not Good Enough

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Nothing we saw at the California Republican Party convention last weekend suggested that either of the leading GOP candidates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, has a strategic message or distilled election theme that goes much beyond unrelenting negativity about government and their opponents.

“Enough is enough,” seemed to be the closest thing to an overarching slogan from any candidate and that’s not much to hang a campaign on. While “Yes we can” could be translated into “Si se puede” for Latino voters, don’t hold your breath waiting for the cries of “¡Basta Ya!”

Even if it worked linguistically, what does it mean? Who does it recommend? More importantly, where the Republican’s Reaganesque sunny optimism? Or even the Bushy saccharine positivism?

Instead, the California GOP of 2010 says, the hell with that stupid shining city on the hill: let’s tear down that derelict village in the valley, by God.

It’s telling that the most enthusiastic response of the convention came when  secretary of state candidate Damon Dunn kept yelling “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  When your best campaign theme is a line filched from “Network” –  a 1976 movie written by Paddy Chayefsky and delivered by Peter Finch — you know you’re struggling to come up with what communications professionals like to call a (quote-unquote) message.

Whitman (“A New California”) and Fiorina (“Protect the American Dream”) pay lip service to the great possibilities that lie in California’s future. Their most constant rhetoric, however,  is all about the sorry state of affairs in Sacramento and Washington and the horrible impact  Democratic foes Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have had and will have on civic life.

It is the Republican’s great good fortune that neither Brown nor Boxer has yet developed a concise and coherent theme, either. Brown’s slogan is a flaccid “Let’s get California working again” and Boxer’s is, er, well, she doesn’t seem to have one at all.

But just 10 weeks before the election, one would expect the GOP convention to serve as the venue for the candidates to roll out their meta-message for the fall campaign as a rallying cry for the party faithful. It didn’t happen.

Instead, Whitman tried to argue that she was running against the incumbent governor:  “After four years as attorney general, four years as secretary of state, eight years as mayor of Oakland and two terms as governor, we once and for all are going to say goodbye to Jerry Brown’s failed ideas and broken promises,” she told the delegates.

California can’t afford Brown’s “radical approach and failed philosophies” when the state is facing an unemployment crisis that is “tearing at the fabric of our very culture”  and “strangling” business with unnecessary rules and regulations.

Sheesh. Given that state of affairs, you’d think she’d be pissed at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – the actual incumbent.

Fiorina, at least, can rightly complain about a Democratic president and U.S. Senator whom she portrays as closet socialists who are weakening the social structure.

But man is she a downer:

I’ve crossed every region of California and I have found islands of despair. In our beautiful state, there is a steady, grinding injustice where the failed policies of Washington’s ruling class have smothered hopes in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people — losing jobs, losing homes, destroying businesses, and worse, sapping the life and the strength and the dreams out of working families in every corner and every county.

Guess we’ll just slit our throats right now and be done with it.

To their credit neither Whitman nor Fiorina appears ready to throw in with what columnist E.J. Dionne calls “the rise of angry, irrational extremism” of the Glenn Beck, Tea Party variety.

Of course, in California, that would not be smart political strategy, which explains why Whitman’s royalists killed a resolution to back Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law and why Fiorina had to be racked by reporters to acknowledge she thought the resolution might be “appropriate” before she was swept away by her handlers.

But neither do they advocate the optimistic conservatism of candidates like Marco Rubio of Florida who says, “Vote for us because you couldn’t possibly vote for them? That’s not enough. It may win some seats, but it won’t take you where you want to be.”

Fiorina’s negativity has a stronger rationale than eMeg’s: she is trying to oust an incumbent United States Senator and has to make the case both against Boxer and for herself. She’s doing a pretty good job of the former if not too well on the latter.

But Whitman is running mostly against Brown who, last we checked, is not the incumbent. Her campaign’s strategy is to make him look like the incumbent, but that has led to such a negative approach that Whitman has been unable to get above 40% favorable despite spending ungodly amounts of money.

Whitman’s big problem is that, after pouring $104 million into her effort, her campaign has failed to craft, let alone sustain, a clear and consistent positive message that gives voters a reason to be for her instead of just being against Brown.

Bottom line: In the end, “Say Goodbye to Jerry” won’t be enough to get her over.

Post Mortem: GOP’s Top 10 Shocking Sights

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

SAN DIEGO — You know you’re struggling to craft a strong political message when your top convention speaker is a guy running for secretary of state who shows up wearing a hard hat, demonstrates merely average rhetorical skills and lifts his best line from a 34-year old movie.

As the state Republican convention ended Sunday, the best news for the GOP was that almost nothing happened, at least nothing that might be of the slightest interest to what you call your Real People.

For the political junkie crowd, however, there was no shortage of spectator entertainment. Here are the Top 10 events of a Lost Weekend in San Diego.

10-Calbuzz gets carded: The convention’s biggest surprise came when a thickly muscled bouncer demanded that your Calbuzz correspondents (combined age: 122) produce I.D. to gain admittance to some second-rate pizza-joint-with-a-full-bar in the Gaslamp Quarter which they stumbled upon in the pre-dawn hours. The move by Thor (not his real name) reflected not only his apparent legal blindness, but also some CYA concerns he clearly felt in noting we were two decades younger than the average GOP convention worthy swarming the streets.

9-The CRA deems Meg a squish: The closest thing to a conflict, let alone drama, was the right-wing California Republican Assembly’s unauthorized, opening day press conference assailing Meg Whitman for her softening views on immigration and climate change. The CRA’s unhappiness was  manifest in a proposed resolution urging the party to formally endorse Arizona’s immigration law, which eMeg opposes; party chair Ron Nehring, with a major assist from state Senator Tony Strickland, worked behind the scenes to ensure the proposal didn’t see the light of day.

8-Carly tap dances on immigration. Though the right-wing faithful are well pleased with Senate nominee Carly Fiorina, at least in contrast to wanna guv eMeg, the CRA’s resolution also put the Hurricane on the spot, at a time when she is ever-so-quietly trying to shift to the political center on several issues. Closely questioned by Calbuzz at her Saturday post-speech press conference about the wisdom of the state GOP going on record in the matter, Carly put on a fabulous display of bobbing and weaving before allowing that the proposal was “appropriate.”

7-Mom loves me more than you. Strickland, the party’s nominee for controller, and secretary of state hopeful Damon Dunn battled during their Friday night speeches to see who could suck up to Meg more. Dunn (who arrived at the podium wearing a white hard hat– see above –  for a sight gag that flopped) briefly interrupted the angry tone of his speech (“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” he kept repeating, quoting the 1976 film “Network”) to gush that “Meg Whitman won my heart,” while Strickland batted goo-goo eyes at her while declaring with terminal earnestness that he’s proud to be “part of what I call ‘Team Whitman.’” Yuck.

6-Strangers in the night. After-hours party sources told Calbuzz it was no accident that eMeg and iCarly never crossed paths at the convention, because Whitman, having made generous contributions to the  GOP, made clear that’s how she wanted it. eMeg no doubt has marginal concerns that Carly’s hard line on issues like abortion, gun control and offshore oil might reflect harmfully on her own mad dash to the center, but the bottom line is simply this: as a political performer, Fiorina is three times the candidate Meg is, and her sharp, punchy and engaging presentation style casts a big shadow on Whitman’s awkward plodding.

5-San Francisco Democrats. As we noted right after the primary, Republicans got a political gift when Democrats nominated a ticket of constitutional nominees heavily tilted to Bay Area liberals. Lite Gov. Abel Maldonado put the Gavin Newsom piece of the package together all weekend, including this must-see video he showed the delegates during his Saturday night speech.

4-Dutch treat. As reporters milled around the press pen early Friday evening, our Assistant Deputy Managing Editor for Cultural Sensitivity and Linguistic Ethnic Profiling got an emergency summons to smooth over a potentially volatile situation, when ace SacBee blogger Torey Van Oot challenged the blatant inaccuracy of “The Tulip,” the nickname Calbuzz gave her in our convention advance. “I’m not Dutch,” she archly informed us, leading management to issue a formal apology, along with a copy desk memo announcing that her new nickname is “Don’t Call Me Dutch.”

3-Cooley’s debut. We got our first extended look at GOP Attorney General nominee Steve Cooley, the L.A. district attorney, and he did a boffo job of ripping the mask off  rival Kamala Harris, the other San Francisco liberal on the Democratic ticket. With his hangdog,  baggy suit, old-school style, Cooley is every inch the career prosecutor, and his authentic outrage was palpable over Harris’s handling of the Edwin Ramos triple murder case and her failure to seek the death penalty in the killing of police officer Isaac Espinoza; when Calbuzz asked him after his speech why he didn’t even mention San Francisco’s drug lab scandal, which Harris also stands in the middle of, he replied, “I only had a certain amount of time.”

2-Meg’s secret message to Goldman Sachs. We’re still trying to parse out precisely what eMeg meant when she dropped this code word thought balloon into the middle of her speech on Friday night: “Do you know who’s as excited about this election as we are? The people of New York. They have suffered the financial reforms that are going to crimp our ability to raise capital and they want California to turn the corner.”

Whether she was complaining that poor Goldman Sachs is suffering unduly under new federal financial regulations, or suggesting that Wall Street types would joyously celebrate the election of a like-minded $oul, you can safely bet that Jerry Brown will use the quote to help paint her as the darling of investment bankers everywhere.

1-The Dr. Hackenflack Dinner: Once again, all right-thinking people agreed, the unquestioned highlight of the convention was the Dr. P.J. Hackenflack dinner, which brought a top-drawer collection of players together at Osetra. Amid fun, frivolity and a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, the group cast secret written ballots for the candidates they think, as of today, will win (not who they prefer). The results:

Governor: Brown 12,  Whitman 5
Senator: Boxer 10, Fiorina 7

The not-so-random voter sample included: Republican operatives (5); MSM reporters (5); Bloggers (3); Civilians (3); Recovering journalist (1). A sixth MSM reporter refused to cast a ballot (don’t ask), making turnout 94%.

Consumer Advisory: This is heir to the same group that a dozen years ago  voted conclusively that Al Checchi would win the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998.





Carly: Pass Reforms, Dump ‘Bitter Partisan’ Babs

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

SAN DIEGO – With a slashing attack on Sen. Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina called Saturday for sweeping reforms to shake up Washington, a bid to steer the race away from issues where she is to the right of mainstream voters and to frame her Republican candidacy as a strike against the status quo.

Portraying Boxer as a left-wing ideologue and prime example of a failed liberal Democratic establishment, Fiorina cast herself as an agent of change who would fight for Congressional term limits and rules changes to make Senate legislation more transparent to citizens.

It’s doubtful that Boxer will rise to the bait by engaging Fiorina on issues like term limits and open government, however. Her campaign would rather keep voters focused on matters where her rival has taken positions more conservative than the more moderate, independent voters who will decide the election — immigration, climate change and abortion , for example  — as well as the Republican’s record as the fired CEO of Hewlett Packard.

In her crisply delivered mid-day speech to state Republican convention delegates, Fiorina repeatedly criticized Boxer as a career politician who long ago overstayed her welcome in Washington.

“They say Washington is a place where people go to do good and stay to do well,” she said, in launching her verbal assault.

“To be blunt, for four decades, (Boxer) has earned her keep not by the sweat of her brow, but by the toil and struggle of hard-working Americans in the private sector. And her left-wing ideology allows her to avoid agonizing over tough decisions,” she said.

Fiorina called for an end to “a system where politicians make backroom deals to ensure their eternal re-election and the re-election of their buddies in Congress.” To that end, she pledged to serve only two terms in the Senate and called for limiting House and Senate terms to 12 years each.

“Ours was intended to be a citizen government and 12 years in each chamber of Congress is enough time to get something done without losing touch with the real world,” she said.

Fiorina also endorsed Proposition 20, an initiative that calls for a citizens commission to draw Congressional district boundaries, instead of leaving the job to the state Legislature. She also called for the defeat of Prop. 27, a measure sponsored by legislative leaders to reverse earlier, voter-approved state redistricting reforms, and for posting federal legislation online for public comment for at least two weeks before voting begins, including complete cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Fiorina repeated the charge that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill– which Boxer supported — has been an utter failure, noting that California’s unemployment rate , now 12.3%, was 10.2% when the stimulus was passed.

She cast Boxer as a “bitter partisan” who has achieved little in her 34 years in public office, 28 as a U.S. Senator and House member.  “Barbara Boxer,” she said, “the only job you are fighting for is your own.”

Carly and the little people: Hurricane Carly blew past a crowd of about 100 cheering volunteers her campaign had assembled to greet her at the entrance of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, barely pausing to acknowledge them, let alone offer personal thank yous,  handshakes or hugs.

Fiorina was nearly 45 minutes late when she swept in at 11:25 a.m., stopping for just a few seconds to wave at her supporters, who had assembled early and lined up to practice chanting her name (weirdest sign: “Carly – Rep Our Hood,” held by a woman with a baseball cap on sideways). Then the candidate quickly made a sharp right turn, briskly walking through the crowd, up the escalator and out of sight.

A trio of elderly folks from central California, all clad in bright red “Carly” caps and t-shirts, told  Calbuzz as they walked away through the hotel lobby that they’d waited an hour to see their party’s nominee and were disappointed that she hadn’t spent some time meeting and greeting her grassroots backers.

Another reason why we call her Hurricane Carly.

Dems come to town: While Fiorina was inside getting ready for her big speech, we found our old friend Kam Kuwata outside the Hyatt, overseeing a rag-tag picket line of Boxer supporters who carried handwritten signs (“Fiorina = Massive Job Losses”) and chanted (“Bad for California – Bad for H-P”) as they marched on the sidewalk to protest the Republicans’ position on tax cuts for the rich and her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Kuwata is coordinating a new truth squad operation called “CEO Watch,” financed by the L.A. County Democratic Party, to “educate the voters about the Republican candidates for office.” He had a pink flyer, headlined “Carly Fiorina’s ‘Pink Slip’ for California,” affixed to his lapel with the biggest safety pin in California.

There were no injuries.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: For those of you who were dying to know what happened to the California Republican Assembly’s resolution putting the state GOP on record supporting Arizona’s “papers please you immigrant suspect” law, here’s the poop: It died in the Resolutions Committee for a lack of a second (and opposition from Meg Whitman’s loyalists). Bee Person, Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot (who,btw, is NOT Dutch, thereby embarrassing Calbuzz who called her “The Tulip”) has all the intel here.

Whitman’s Speech: Your Eyes Are Getting Heavy…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

SAN DIEGO – Bottom line on Meg Whitman’s 22-minute dinner address tonight to the California Republican Party state convention: as red meat speeches go, it was pretty much boiled beef.

Jerry Brown is “bought and paid for by the unions and the entrenched interests.” That was her best line because at least it had some bite, appealed to the public passion of the moment and contained enough truth to make it believable. It’s a plan fact that without union support this summer, Brown would now be stuck in the wake of S.S. eMeg.

But a few good lines does not a great convention speech make. With all the passion of a principal explaining attendance rules to the sixth grade assembly on the first day of school, Meg otherwise unleashed a flaccid set of platitudes and snoozer talking points worthy of Jack Kemp.

Some of the, um, highlights:

“Enough is enough.”
Enough Jerry Brown, enough unions, enough bad schools, enough fiscal debt, yada yada yada.

“This race is about the future versus the past.”
Oh, gee, what time is it?

“This is a battle for the soul of California .
So says the Long Island horsewoman with the merest passing relationship with the voting booths of the Golden State.

“We’re going to have to stand up and be counted and take our state back.”
eMeg: she avoids clichés like the plague.

“There is tremendous room for improvement.”
Mrs. Harsh, can I please have a hall pass?

“I refuse to sit by and watch our state fail.”
Nice of you to notice.

“I don’t owe anyone anything, except the voters of California .”
What about Goldman Sachs?

“I want to cut taxes. I want to make California competitive again.”
Zzzzzz…

Post mortem: Two words that were notable for their absence in eMeg’s analysis of the gloomy state of affairs in Sacramento: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Also unmentioned: Pete Wilson, another past Republican governor and current Whitman chairman.

Oh, did I forget to mention: Climate change and immigration.

And to all a good night.

GOP Liveblog: Right-Wing Whacks eMeg Early

Friday, August 20th, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Even before Meg Whitman stepped up to address the Republican state convention here, leaders of the party’s grassroots right wing sharply criticized her stands on immigration and the environment, warning that many conservative voters might sit out the election if she takes their support for granted.

Top officials of the California Republican Assembly and Young Republican Federation of California told reporters covering the convention at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt that the GOP nominee for governor is making both an ideological error and a serious strategic mistake by moderating her earlier positions on illegal immigration, California’s climate change law and taxes, among other issues.

“There’s almost nothing left of the primary Meg,” said former CRA and GOP chairman Mike Schroeder.  “It’s time for the Republican Party to be officially concerned about whether or not Republicans are going to turn out for this ticket . . . if there’s no enthusiasm a lot of people don’t turn out at all.”

“Republicans are unified in their support for Meg Whitman both here at the convention and across the state,” replied Brian Seitchik, spokeman for the GOP.  Immigration and other issues will not fragment the party, he said. “The party is unified behind Meg because she has a plan to create jobs and that’s going to be the central issue in November.”

Despite assurances from Whitman loyalists in the party apparatus, the tone and substance of the comments by the conservative leaders showed that her brazen shift to the political center after portraying herself as a movement conservative in the primary is deeply upsetting some of the most loyal Republican voters.

Calbuzz asked this question: Do you think she is taking the conservative wing of the Republican Party for granted?

“Yes,” said Schroeder. “I think she assumes that people will look and say, ‘Well, the alternative is Jerry Brown.’ But that’s not true. The alternative to Jerry Brown is not voting at all, or voting for the Libertarian or somebody else. And that’s what a lot of the conversation is becoming.”

Because a state party convention is a kind of ideological hothouse, it is not clear whether the comments from the right-wing leaders represent an actual threat to Whitman’s chances in the general election against Democrat Jerry Brown, or more a intramural scuffle for the hearts and minds of the activists who populate these conventions. The CRA endorsed Steve Poizner, eMeg’s rival, as the preferred conservative in the GOP primary.

It didn’t help relations between the two sides, however, that the CRA was denied access to the official GOP press room and was forced to hold forth in a lobby.

The CRA is sponsoring a resolution, which they are trying to bring before the convention, that would put the party squarely on record in favor of both California’s Proposition 187 and the controversial Arizona law aimed at illegal immigrants. Whitman has said she would have opposed 187, if she was living in the state in 1994. And she has said that while the Arizona law is OK for Arizona, it’s impractical in California.

“That’s nonsense,” said Celeste Greig, president of the CRA. Greig said she is not  concerned that pushing Whitman to the right on the issue could backfire on her in the general election. “We are trying to help her. We want her to win. We want her to be successful. But we also want her to come aboard with the issues that we care about. We want her to stand strong on what she campaigned for in the primary election.”

As a political matter, however, the flap between Whitman and the right-wing overshadowed what Team Whitman had hoped would be the message of the day. Earlier in the day, her campaign produced an elaborately staged media event at a solar company in San Diego that was intended to showcase her alleged plan for dealing with California’s 12.5% unemployment; it was no accident that her convention speech was scheduled for late Friday evening, when it might be too late to get on TV news, and would get relatively short shrift in the poorly-read Saturday papers.

Even before the CRA news conference, eMeg managed to step on her own story in advance, when she told reporters at a press gaggle that, if elected governor, she would support a legal appeal by supporters of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, a position Gov. Schwarzenegger has refused to take.

But it’s Whitman’s waffling stance on illegal immigration (along with her refusal to endorse Prop. 23, overturning California’s climate-change law) that has her party’s right wing worried.

Adam Abrahms, president of the GOP youth federation said he’ll vote for Whitman but she’s not sure he can bring masses of cohorts along. “It’s a matter of enthusiasm. And I want all of our candidates to go out there and say the things and do the things that are going to help energize our base . . .  In 2008 I had a very difficult time motivating people to do something with  Mr. McCain. There was a big problem. They didn’t trust him,” he said.

Of course, McCain was Whitman’s candidate. After her first choice — Mitt Romney — fell by the wayside.