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Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Stevens’



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.

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.

H-P Founders Would Be For Campbell, Not Fiorina

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

If William Hewlett and David Packard were alive today,  the famous eponymous founders of Hewlett Packard Co. would not be supporting ex- H-P CEO Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate; they would be backing Tom Campbell.

Not only were both Hewlett and Packard enthusiastic recruiters and backers of Campbell in his first race for Congress in Silicon Valley in 1988, but their heirs fought bitterly with Fiorina over her management of H-P, and were crucial to the board of directors’ movement that canned Hurricane Carly in 2005.

In the Senate campaign, Fiorina trumpets her H-P tenure as central to her qualifications for the Senate. If she gets the Republican nomination, however, you can be sure that incumbent and veteran gut-fighter Barbara Boxer will let voters know Carly was picked as one of the worst CEOs of all time by, among others, Portfolio magazine:

A consummate self-promoter, Fiorina was busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered.

Bottom line: She became CEO in July, 1999 when HP’s stock price was $52 per share. Five years later it was $21 per share – a 60% decline – while the stock price of competitor Dell rose to $40, from $37 in the same period.

“Hewlett and Packard would roll over in their graves if they knew what she did to the H-P Way,” said one retired H-P executive we know well. “She was hated inside the company and by most retirees.” [Thanks to Calbuzzer wygk for pointing us to this anti-Carly web site operated by former H-P employees.]

Getting bounced from H-P wasn’t the only time Fiorina was shown the door.

In her only experience in big-time politics, she served for a while as a media surrogate for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. She lasted until September, when she said in a radio interview that Palin lacked the experience to run a major company like H-P – a gaffe she compounded by adding that, anyway, none of the candidates for president – including her man McCain – had the wherewithal to handle the task. Though she continued working on fundraising, she was pretty much banished as a campaign spokesperson campaign after that.

Given her history, it’s not surprising to read that Arianna Packard, daughter of David Woodley Packard (who, along with Walter Hewlett, the other eldest H-P son,  led the proxy fight to overturn Fiorina’s merger of H-P and Compaq), had given $2,400 to Assemblyman and GOP Senate hopeful Chuck DeVore. Or that H-P’s PAC has given the maximum $10,000 to Boxer.

Now that Campbell’s in the Senate race, our bet is that H-P and other Silicon Valley money mostly goes to Tom Boy, not the former Cara Carleton Sneed.

P.S. We tried to get former Rep. Ed Zschau, our old friend and the prototypical Silicon Valley politician — the original Zschauist –  to opine on whether Dave and Bill would support Campbell or Fiorina but he wouldn’t bite. He noted, however, that in addition to his current gigs teaching at Princeton and being involved in six start-up companies, he’s a member of Campbell’s campaign finance committee and that some of Dudley Do-Right’s campaign staffers were involved in his own Senate bid 24 years ago (covered by your creaky Calbuzzers).

My greatest strength is probably my humility: In a recent column on business leadership, Wall Street Journal online executive editor Alan Murray cited Fiorina as a fine example of what not to do:

Often, it’s in the humility department that modern leaders fail. Think of Carly Fiorina, who as CEO of Hewlett-Packard had her own picture inserted on the wall between those of the company’s iconic founders, Messers. Hewlett and Packard. Ms. Fiorina’s leadership of H-P foundered in part because she was perceived as devoting too much time to cultivating her own image, and too little to fixing the company’s internal management problems.

Even though cultivating your own image is the name of the game in politics, Fiorina’s efforts sometimes suggest she thinks that Senators get paid by the word.

Her daily barrage of press releases has already become a joking matter among political writers, For her campaign, however, it should be no joke that sometimes, less is more, or that a politician’s comments get devalued when the volume of them becomes too great (see Obama, Barack).

Last week was typical: the Hurricane’s campaign sent out at least 15 announcements (weekend excluded) about iCarly’s views on every conceivable subject. There were five on Wednesday alone, including an attack on Boxer over job creation; an attack on the Administration over Central Valley water supply; an account of an event at USC; her anticipatory comments about Obama’s State of the Union address; and her (You Tubed) comments about the actual SOTU. No word yet on when we’ll see her statement offering a look back at the State of the Union.

Who Got Pantsed, Whitman or Poizner? Is eMeg a felon? Is Mike Murphy an unindicted co-conspirator? Is Commish Poizner certifiably insane? Is Stuart Stevens Nurse Ratched in drag? Tune in tomorrow when Calbuzz definitively unravels this second-rate civic soap opera. Here’s a link to the story if you missed the action.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Calbuzz looooves Lady Gaga, the Carly Fiorina of pop music, but the whole pink lady from outer space thing is too much even for us.