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Posts Tagged ‘republican primary’



Poiz Rips eMeg on Goldman but No Game Changer

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Five minutes into the GOP governor’s debate, Steve Poizner ripped into Meg Whitman on her ties to Goldman Sachs – charging that “a lot of people got damaged by Goldman Sachs and Meg Whitman’s right in the middle of it.”

“Meg Whitman has massive investments in Goldman Sachs, made huge amounts of money from the collapse of the housing market, and then, when it was time for Goldman Sachs to get bailed out by taxpayers, Meg Whitman actively campaigned for a taxpayer funded (bailout). The question is, did she let people know?”

It was the first of a series of aggressive and effective attacks on eMeg’s character and ideology that he landed against his front-running rival for the Republican nomination for governor in Sunday’s hour-long debate at San Jose’s Tech Museum, a solid performance that Calbuzz scored as a win for Poizner.

But solid as his victory was in the only televised debate of the contest, it fell short of the kind of dramatic game changer that the state Insurance Commissioner needs to overcome the former eBay CEO’s commanding lead five weeks before the June 8 primary.

It’s a plain fact that debates rarely change the basic dynamics of a major political race, especially one broadcast at 5 p.m. on a splendidly sunny Sunday in May; beyond this, and despite her feckless answers on Goldman Sachs and other in-your-face challenges, Whitman to her credit never wilted under Poizner’s withering fire, nor did she hand him a truly memorable moment suitable for a devastating TV ad – no lasting image of blunder, weakness or faltering faux pas.

With both of the contenders pandering shamelessly to the Tea Party wing of the GOP on issues from immigration to gun control, the core of the proceedings was Poizner’s line of attack on her personal integrity over her multiple connections to scandal-tainted Goldman Sachs.

As Whitman stood by glowering, arms tightly crossed in a defensive posture, Poizner bluntly assailed both her ethics and her judgment, particularly for accepting from the investment bank repeated IPO stock issues, then quickly “spinning” them to make quick and easy profits worth millions – a practice that was later made illegal.

“I did not do anything wrong,” Whitman insisted at one point. “It was a legal and standard practice. With 20-20 hindsight, would I do it again? No, because it was called into question.”

Poizner pounded at her answer:

Wow, you really don’t get this Meg…You were the CEO of eBay receiving investment banking services from Goldman Sachs, then you joined the Goldman Sachs board and their compensation committee, then Goldman Sachs started to feed you these sweetheart deals, not one, not two but 100 of them, and you made a fortune, a separate fortune from your eBay fortune and then until you got caught you didn’t think anything was wrong. But the fact is, Congress investigated what you did, they called it corrupt, the SEC investigated what you did and immediately declared what you did illegal, and the eBay shareholders investigated what you did and they sued you. They sued you for a huge conflict of interest and the only reason why you paid back any of this money is because you had to settle the lawsuit.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

Here’s a look at some of the other highlights of the debate:

Immigration: Just days after declaring his opposition to Arizona’s controversial new law aimed at illegal immigrants, Poizner announced that he now supports the measure, claiming that new amendments will prevent it from authorizing de facto racial profiling by law enforcement. He repeated the mantra of actions he has said he would take as governor against illegals – “turning off the magnets” of education and social services, cracking down on employers who employ undocumented workers and “sanctuary cities” in California, and using state resources to increases security at the Mexican border.

Poizner also charged that Whitman supports “amnesty” based on earlier comments she made about support for legislation that would offer illegals a path to citizenship. Whitman, who has said she misspoke in making those comments, was left to deny that she backs “amnesty,” but scored some points by pointing to Poizner’s conversion on the Arizona law as emblematic of his flip flops on other issues, from his days as a moderate Republican candidate for the Assembly to his current full-throated, red meat conservatism:

“This is a classic case of Steve Poizner changing his mind,” she said, noting that he is “an engineer…every election cycle he engineers a new position” to match the moment.

Tea Party – Asked if they considered themselves members of the Tea Party movement, the two fell over each other gushing about it. “Yes, I’ve been to a whole bunch of Tea Party events…I find myself really in synch with the Tea Party,” Poizner said, while eMeg chimed in, “I am a supporter…they are at their core fiscal conservatives…if the Tea Partiers and others are looking for the tough fiscal conservative in this race, I promise you it is me.”

Poizner’s record – Whitman was at her best in assailing Poizner’s political shape shifting, noting that he backed a 2004 ballot initiative to lower the Proposition 13 vote threshold on school bonds and opposed President Bush’s tax cuts, while also accusing him of increasing the budget in the Insurance Commissioner’s office. The latter charge led to an inconclusive exchange, as the rivals hurled conflicting newspaper reports on the issue: “You just do not know what you’re talking about,” Poizner snarled at Whitman, “They (the Sacramento Bee) called you a liar.”

Whitman’s record – Playing directly to the GOP right-wing, Poizner repeatedly hit eMeg for taking a cruise that was organized to examine the issue of global warming, and for having embraced the ideas of Van Jones, the left-wing green energy activist who was fired by the Obama White House after a series of his past radical statements were made public. He also blasted her for having supported Barbara Boxer’s re-election in 2004, ostensibly because Boxer opposed a new tax on internet services: “Because Barbara Boxer took a certain position on an Internet tax that would personally benefit her and her investment funds…Is that the way you make decisions about who to endorse?”

Right-wing pandering - Beyond their gushing comments about the Tea Party, both rushed to woo right-wingers on other issues.  Both of them blasted California’s AB32 climate change laws, and refused to say that they believe global warming is caused by human activity, claiming the science is unclear on the question, and both also claimed to support “open carry” anti-gun control legislation.

Voting – After refusing to say she had done anything wrong on Goldman Sachs, Whitman switched course on questions about her poor voting record and offered a direct apology:  “I was not as engaged and connected as I should have been…but I’m 100% engaged now.” But Poizner sharply criticized Whitman for her failure to vote until the last several years: “Not voting is a big deal – you can’t just wash it away with a simple apology.”

Near the end of the debate, Whitman made a statement that will reflect the frame of the rest of the primary campaign: “So I would ask you, not to judge me on the mistakes I have made, but the ideas that I have to fix California, to restore California to its greatness.”

As eMeg tries to spend the next five weeks telling voters about her ideas, you can be sure Poizner will stay tightly focused on telling them about her mistakes.

How Poizner Could Still Win; Memo to Joe Mathews

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Over coffee and muffins last Saturday morning, Stuart Stevens, Steve Poizner’s media strategist, predicted to a handful of California political reporters that this week’s Field Poll would show his guy further behind Meg Whitman than ever.

And, Stevens quickly added to the incredulity of the journalists, it would prove ultimately and totally irrelevant, after Poizner confounds conventional wisdom and defeats eMeg in the June 8 Republican primary for governor.

“Once Steve Poizner goes on the air,” the lean and laconic Washington-based consultant said, “the entire issue is going to be:  how does she reduce her rate of loss?”

With eMeg now smashing Poizner 63-to-14, according to the Field survey released Wednesday, Stevens’s two-part prediction has proven to be at least half right. What remains to be seen is whether the claim that his client is poised to pull off one of the biggest upsets in California political history turns out to be more than spin and smoke-blowing.

The basic assumption underlying Team Poizner’s stated confidence aligns with the Calbuzz argument that 2010 is – first, last and only – a change election. With this as a point of departure, their insistence that The Commish has eMeg right where he wants her proceeds on three key arguments:

1-Whitman’s massive, early TV buy is Christmas advertising in August.

Poizner strategists believe that Whitman’s huge current lead is extremely soft, built on name identification that she has built over several months of being the only candidate on the air.

But, they argue, she has peaked too soon and once Republican primary voters learn more about her – with a major assist from Poizner comparative ads – that support will quickly erode and all the movement and momentum will be on their side. “Campaigns have internal rhythms that are unalterable,” said Stevens. “You don’t have to win many days to win an election.”

2-Poizner, not Whitman, has the right message.

With his emphasis on sweeping tax cuts, a hard line on illegal immigration and expressed opposition to public financing of abortion, Poizner has not only staked out the ideological conservative ground in the Republican primary, his handlers argue, but also positioned himself as the candidate who most dramatically represents change.

Stevens argued that while  Whitman’s message has been largely biographical – she is the former, successful head of eBay who will bring her business skills to bear in Sacramento – and aimed at establishing her as a political outsider, she has not advanced the argument to define herself as an agent of change.  “We like the idea that Meg has become the effective incumbent in this race,” said Stevens, “and the campaign will become a referendum on the incumbent.” (NB: this conversation took place before this week’s release of eMeg’s 48-page plan of policy proposals).

3-Poizner has the resources to deliver his message.

While Team Whitman has adapted the military doctrine of overwhelming force to surge to an unprecedented early lead – creating the unlikely perception that Poizner is the poor guy in the race who needs to put on bake sales to fund his campaign – he has at least $19 million available for TV advertising, an amount that would seem extraordinary in any other year.

To the Poizner camp, the fact that Whitman has spent a considerable amount of money attacking him is evidence of a lack of confidence among eMeg’s strategists that she has the election in the bag. And they scoff at the argument, made repeatedly during last weekend’s GOP convention, that the party should unite behind her because, as Mitt Romney put it, she “is the only Republican who can be elected governor of California.”

“As Jack Germond used to say,” Stevens told reporters over breakfast last weekend, “’Those who depend on winnability seldom do.’”

Say it ain’t so, Joe: Joe Mathews’s take on California politics and government is usually smart and well-reasoned, but the argument underpinning his recent ad hominem attack on Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds is all but incoherent.

Mathews bashes us for leading the months-long charge that resulted in Whitman finally becoming accessible to the press corps, on the grounds that what she said when she finally spoke to reporters wasn’t very interesting.

Here’s a hint about covering politics from a couple of “aging” reporters, Joe: What politicians say matters.

Whether it’s mush or the sharpest and most specific policy prescriptions, the words and arguments they use in campaigns are important signifiers of how they’ll govern, and part of the job of being a political reporter is to present those words and arguments to voters so they can make the decision.

Here’s another hint: Put aside your oh-so-world-weary condescension to those voters, get up off your ass and do some actual reporting instead of just sucking on your thumb all the time.

What Campbell’s Move to Senate Race Means

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

tomcampbellTo the non-surprise of Calbuzz readers, Tom Campbell is set to announce on Wednesday that he’s jumping from the governor’s race to the Republican primary for Senate.

The most interesting thing we’ve heard about that development is that the Field Poll is, uh, in the field right now and the wily and resourceful Mark DiCamillo had the wit and foresight to ask horserace questions in the Senate race with two and three candidates, plus a second-choice question in the governor’s race. Should be out later next week.

Beyond that, the impact of Campbell’s move on the governor’s race is probably minimal. We could argue either way that it benefits Meg Whitman – because her mostly moderate politics are closer to Campbell’s than are Steve Poizner’s born-again conservative views – or that it helps the Commish – by giving him a clear shot as the alternative to eMeg. We’ll make a stronger argument when we have some data.

However, the bottom line is that Campbell had about a buck-and-a-half to spend on his campaign, while Whitman and Poizner have money coming out their ears, so it ultimately won’t make a huge difference whether he’s in or out of the Republican primary contest.

As for the effect on the Senate race, Campbell will still face the same type of financial struggle that he had in the gov’s race, although against only one rich candidate, Carly Fiorina, instead of two.

The conventional wisdom is that Campbell’s entry will hurt Fiorina because it pulls moderate support from her, while right-wing Assemblyman Chuck DeVore will hang onto the hardcore conservative base. But we’ve reported previously on the counter-intuitive, and possibly anomalous, findings of the LA Times/USC poll that suggest there’s overlap between Campbell supporters and those of the right-wing Assemblyman Chuck Devore.

Guess we’ll wait for the Field Poll to find out.

PS: Kudos to Merc Newsers Ken McLaughlin and Mike Zapler who had the story first at 12:05 pm followed by Chronicler Joe Garofoli a full hour later.