Posts Tagged ‘tax cuts’

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.

Poizner Plays Prius to eMeg’s High-Rolling Hummer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

poiznerfingerInsurance Commish Steve Poizner on Monday offered himself as the Prius candidate for governor – the guy with “a hybrid mix of skills” – while taking a few whacks at his big-spending GOP rival Meg Whitman during his first campaign conference call with reporters.

Pledging to “get California back on track,” – an implicit critique of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Poizner argued that although he’s also a Republican, “I don’t think people look at the position of governor with a partisan perspective.”

The next governor’s top challenges will be [note: Calbuzz decoder ring translations in brackets] to “modernize and overhaul state government,” [cut spending throughout government] and “bring jobs back to California.” [cut taxes and regulations].

Sounding much like Schwarzenegger did when he pledged to “blow up the boxes” and remake California government, Poizner said he would cut spending not with an axe, but with a scalpel, agency by agency, department by department, as he said he’s done in the office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Asked why anyone should believe that he could do what Schwarzenegger has been unable to do, Poizner first gave a standard stump reply: “I’ve never been confused with Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Informed by an intrepid  news hound that while “cute,” this was not a real answer, Poizner added that he is an entrepreneur, an engineer and a problem solver with a track record [which Arnold did not have].

Voters, he said, are looking for “an outsider with a track record to deal with insiders.” That, he suggested, is one factor that separates him from eMeg – the former eBay CEO – who has no government experience. “Running the state of California is not like running a company – it’s not how to grow and gain market share” but modernizing and overhauling state government, he said.

Poizner stated that 3,000 people a day week are leaving California because of high taxes and a lack of jobs (his source is U.S. Census data on net migration for California – but his declared cause for it was challenged by a recent PPIC study). The solution, he argued, is to cut taxes.

What taxes, we asked. We’ll get to that within a month, he promised, saying he’s got a policy analyst from Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign – Lanhe Chan – and a “first class policy shop” working on a program of tax cuts. [Decoder ring update: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.]

He refused to say whether he’d support an oil severance tax, but he did say he favors the Tranquillon Ridge drilling project in Santa Barbara and other efforts to increase oil drilling from existing platforms and onshore facilities using slant-drilling technology. “I don’t support building new platforms,” he added.

[This makes him safe to all those Republicans in coastal counties whose homes overlook the ocean and who will vote for GOP candidates as long as they don’t mess with their views.]

As for eMeg, Poizner noted that “one of my opponents spent more in June than I’ve spent in total.” Californa, he added, “has a history of wealthy business people parachuting in” but that this has tended to backfire “when people think you’re trying to buy the election.” [hmmm…]

In round figures, Poizner has raised about $5.4 million, including $4.2 million from himself and $1.2 million from others, and spent about $1.7 million, leaving him with about $3.7 million in the bank.

Whitman, on the other hand, has raised about $25 million, including a whopping $19 million from herself and $6 million from others, and has spent a sort of   astonishing $6 million, leaving her with $19 million in the bank.

Poizner – a multi-millionaire himself – said “We’re going to raise all the money we need.” But, “If sheer financial wealth is all you need, we’d have had a Governor Checchi,” he said, referring to the former Northwest Airlines chieftain who lost the 1998 Democratic primary after spending more than $40 million of his own money.

He said he would “spend money carefully – I’m not going to go down the road of reckless spending.” And to underscore the point, his communications director, Jerrod Jarrod Agen, later sent over some helpful items from eMeg’s spending report including:

— Private Jets – $100,926.71: ACM Aviation, LLC
— Consultants – $2,111,774.29
— Crystal Valet – $9,283
— Wolfgang Puck Catering – $10,962
— Internet — $994,278.67: Including $943,067.54 to Tokoni Inc.*

“We were quite surprised that the Whitman campaign has spent over $6 million,” Agen said, “not necessarily to talk to voters.”

Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei had no apologies. “Meg has a budget that was created with the goal of winning on election day both in June and November of next year. And the money has been invested into campaign operations thus far is well within that budget,” she said.

“We’re allocating resources to put ourselves in the best position to communicate with voters about Meg’s vision for the future of our state.”

P.S. A Calbuzz tip of the green eyeshade to Poizner for making himself available for some serious questioning — something Her Megness, with her big fat fancy-pants consulting staff, has steadfastly refused to do.

* Tokoni Inc. was founded in n August 2007 by Alex Kazim and his wife, Mary Lou Song. Kazim previously held several top management positions at eBay, including president of Skype, eBay’s internet communications flop, a Whitman project that ultimately cost eBay about $2 billion.