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Posts Tagged ‘Timm Herdt’



Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Field Poll: Right-Wingers Helping eMeg Crush Poiz

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The Field Poll released today further demonstrates how Meg Whitman put herself in position to claim the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday: By making herself more popular than Steve Poizner among the strong conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts he aggressively courted – key players in the GOP nominating process but marginal, perhaps even detrimental to her in the general election.

Whitman enters the final weekend before Tuesday’s vote with a commanding 51-25% lead over Poizner, according to the non-partisan Field Poll. Poizner has cut Whitman’s lead to 26% compared to 49% in March (63-14%) to. But that’s still a landslide win for Whitman, who will, compared to Poizner, have spent three times the money to win twice the vote.

What may be worrisome for Team eMeg is that in the process of trashing Poizner – and Calbuzz really does not get why Whitman went up at the end with a new shoot-the-lifeboats ad against Poizner – Whitman’s unfavorable rating among Republicans rose 8 percentage points, although she does end the primary campaign with positive marks – 62-24% – at least among the GOP.

Unlike the PPIC poll released last week, the Field Poll did not immediately release all of its data, including the candidates’ favorability ratings across party lines which – as Calbuzz noted the other day – suggest that Whitman is on her way to winning the nomination at the cost of making herself unacceptable to independents, moderates and other swing voters.

Meanwhile, Capitol Weekly and Probolsky Research  released a tracking poll showing Whitman leading Poizner 54-24% and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina leading former Congressman Tom Campbell 40-25% in the GOP contest for U.S. Senate.

Virtually every poll in the last week or so has found that while Poizner may have gotten close to Whitman in the middle of May, he failed to close the gap and she poured enough money into television and other campaign media to pull away from him.

The Field Poll, for example, showed that Poizner drove up Whitman’s negative ratings among Republican voters, from 16% in March to 24% by the end of May. And Poizner even increased his own favorable rating by a whopping 20 points – from 20% in March to 40% by early June.

But Poizner’s unfavorable rating also inched up – to 39% from 34% in March. In other words, of the eight in 10 GOP voters who have any opinion about him, about half view him favorably and half unfavorably. Having one’s own party split 50-50 on whether they even like you, does not a candidate make.

Whitman, meanwhile, has cemented her impression among Republicans and by a 3-1 ratio GOP voters believe she has a better chance of defeating Jerry Brown, the certain Democratic nominee, in November.

Whitman beats Poizner 52-26% among strong conservatives compared to 49-25% among all others and she wins 55-25% among Tea Party identifiers and 48-25% among all others. In other words, Whitman has beaten Poizner at his own game – trying to be the right-wing candidate in the race.

The question now is this: Having established her bona fides with the knuckle-dragging wing of the California Republican Party, can she credibly appeal to the moderates and independents who are the key to statewide elections in California?

The Field Poll surveyed 511 likely voters May 27-June 2, including registered Republicans and non-partisans who had already cast absentee ballots. Because the Field Poll has refused to allow Calbuzz to become a paid subscriber, Calbuzz had to obtain the survey results by other means.

Press Clips: Timm Herdt throws the flag on Das Williams over-the-line move against Susan Jordan in the fiercely fought 35th Assembly District Democratic primary, where Williams’s guy totally doctors a photograph to make Jordan look bad, and then defends it as just another day at the office:

“We took our poetic license with that,” said Josh Pulliam, strategist for the Williams campaign. “It’s a physical manifestation of what she probably looked like at the location.”

OK, so Calbuzz doesn’t exactly have the high ground in complaining about photoshopped images, but seriously, a champagne flute? Next up: Das puts a turban on Susan’s head, a grenade in one hand, an AK-47 in the other and wonders what all the fuss is about.

Michael Rothfeld channels Don Meredith: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over”…Tom Friedman used to be a helluva’ reporter so it’s sad to watch him turn into a parody of himself, as he did in using the first person pronoun 13 times while declaring sovereignty for the nation of Friedlandia in his column on Israel’s Gaza flotilla attack…Best take to date on digging into Jerry Brown’s papers from his first stint as governor comes from SacBee’s  Marje Lundstrom, who teased out a terrific yarn about the political triangle of Jerry, father Pat and erstwhile chief of staff Gray Davis.

Why Newsweek is failing: 3,359 words, 7 bylines and not a single new fact…Why Newsweek is failing II: the insufferable Jon Meacham…Best evidence of why California needs a split roll property tax system comes from part-time Timesman Dan Weintraub…Nifty analysis by Robert Reich, the Barbara Boxer-sized former Secretary of Labor, shows  how America’s great new wave of entrepreneurship is really just a bunch of despairing unemployed Boomers.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Who had a worse week – Kendry Morales or Jim Joyce? You be the judge.

New Dem Party/Brown Whack at eMeg on Goldman

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The California Democratic Party, coordinating with Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor, is expected today to launch an attack on Republican front-runner Meg Whitman in the form of an “issues” ad calling on Congress to “stop special favors for wealthy Wall Street insiders,” sources told Calbuzz on Thursday.

The assault — which the Brown campaign would not confirm — comes as private polling by Republican Steve Poizner, by Whitman and various other candidates and initiative campaigns shows the Republican race for governor now within 10 points, with Poizner closing fast.

The CDP/Brown effort is aimed at weakening Whitman even further, especially among independent voters who will be crucial in the general election. If, as a side benefit, the ad campaign also erodes Whitman’s standing in the GOP primary, so much the better, sources said.

Whitman is struggling to douse the fires rising from attention focused on the fact that Goldman Sachs gave her access to initial public stock offerings that she “spun” or resold for personal profit while she was CEO at eBay. Goldman Sachs got eBay’s investment banking business and Whitman was, for a time, also a member of Goldman’s board.

The practice of “spinning” was legal at the time, but was outlawed shortly after a Congressional investigation and about the same time Whitman resigned from the Goldman board and returned $1.78 million in profits to settle an eBay shareholder lawsuit.

Calbuzz has not seen the CDP/Brown ad itself, but it has been described by media industry sources. According to them, the ad notes that a judge called Whitman’s spinning an “obvious conflict of interest,” that she was “forced” to return her profits and that she has “secretive offshore accounts, managed by Goldman Sachs, used by the rich to avoid taxes.”

In the same way the California Chamber of Commerce briefly used an “issues ad” to attack Brown, the CDP and Brown are using an “issues ad” to attack Whitman. The difference is that the Chamber is officially a non-partisan organization and the California Democratic Party and the Brown campaign are anything but non-partisan.

Official state parties may legally coordinate activity with candidates for partisan office which is apparently the framework in which this ad campaign is crafted. How much money the CDP will put behind the ad — money that was likely raised by Brown — is yet unclear. But the initial buy is expected to be about $1 million.

And Other Lies: The biggest canard in Governor Arnold’s dishonest crock of a disingenuous argument for scheduling the special election for Abel Maldonado’s former senate seat in the middle of summer is the purported need to have all legislative hands on deck to vote on a new state budget.

“We think it’s important to have a full complement of senators as soon as possible,” said Schwarzmuscle mouthpiece Aaron McLear said.

Puh-leeze.

Putting aside the fact that the $20 billion red ink budget will probably get voted on closer to Christmas, the clear-eyed Timm Herdt makes the very excellent point that if 15th SD front-runner Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee wins – an outcome Schwarzenegger is clearly trying to guarantee by setting the special for August 17 – there’ll be an open Assembly seat awaiting yet another special election, by which time the mendacious McLear will be well into his next million or so deceits.

Besides his little hissy fit of spite over the Dems taking their time to confirm Maldo as Lite Guv, there’s one and only reason that Conan set the date when he did – because the senate Republican leaders leaned on him to put his thumb on the scale so Democratic front-runner and former Assemblyman John Laird doesn’t capture the seat and put them on the brink of the two-thirds majority needed for budget votes.

The merits of consolidating the run-off vote with the Nov. 2 statewide are clear and overwhelming: sparing Central Coast counties the $2.5 million price tag of indulging Arnold’s whim, boosting voter awareness and turnout in the sprawling district, ensuring that military voters stationed overseas are full enfranchised – a matter that is resonating even with conservatives – as well as a batch of voting rights issue raised by newly-filed litigation that Schwarzenegger’s triggered with his partisan action.

Bottom line to Laird: “I think it was a political play, the Senate Republican leadership attempting to advantage themselves in the special election.” And what motivated Schwarzmuscle? “He was responding to the Senate Republican leadership in advance of the budget,” said Laird.

What hath Sarah wrought: While Sarah Palin’s Facebook endorsement of Carly Fiorina in the Republican Senate race offers iCarly a nice boost in the primary, the political backing of the Thrilla from Wasilla will reek like stinking fish by the time the general election comes around, should the Hurricane win the GOP nomination.

There’s not a lot of hard data available about how Californians view Palin, but polling from her stint as the 2008 veep candidate makes it clear what a polarizing figure she was even back when she was still a borderline wing nut, before she crossed the border and became a total whack job. Shortly after the Republican National Convention where she made her national political debut, the Field Poll found Palin’s favorable to unfavorable rating among Californians stood at 43-43; less than two months later her image stood at 37-53 favorable-unfavorable.

The big shift came among independents: In the first weeks after Palin’s launch, they viewed her somewhat unfavorably, 36-45; by the time they’d been more fully exposed to her charms, shortly before the election, DTSs had a 20-65 unfavorable view of her, a 36 point swing. All this, of course, before Palin resigned as governor of Alaska and evolved into a full time media bore.

Even California Republicans became slightly less enamored over time: they viewed her favorably 81-12 during the September survey and 74-19 in October, a net decline of 13 points.

Still her seal of approval is a big deal for Fiorina in the right-wing dominated primary, and even more of one, in an opposite way, for Orange County Assemblyman Chuck Devore, the true Tea Partier in the race, whose supporters took to Palin’s Facebook page to complain about her endorsement of Fiorina.

As for front-runner Tom Campbell, we have a feeling Palin’s gratuitous dis of Dudley – “a liberal member of the GOP who seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer, one of the most left-wing members of the Senate” – will find its way onto the air in the next four weeks.

Upadate 6:40 am: At 10:09 pm Thursday the Whitman campaign sent out the following statement: “This is a clear effort by the California Democratic Party and labor unions to defeat Meg Whitman, because she is the only fiscal conservative in the race who will reform the failed pension system and solve the fiscal crisis in Sacramento. The California Democratic Party, the public employee unions, and Steve Poizner have struck an alliance to defeat Meg’s effort to disrupt the status quo in Sacramento.”

GOP Extra II: New Boffo Hit By Demon Sheep Auteur

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Cue the dancing bears: Wannabe Senator Carly Fiorina rolled out a full-throttle, multi-media extravaganza for her turn in the limelight Saturday, the Republican state convention’s most boffo box office so far.

Taking full advantage of her scheduled time on the convention program, Team Carly essentially relaunched her campaign, with a production that included music by Van Halen, a free-swinging speech delivered by the candidate channeling Miss Scarlet, and a new, mad genius video by gonzo media consultant Fred Davis.

“We call it the announcement on steroids,” Davis told Calbuzz.

In contrast to Meg Whitman, whose Friday night speech to delegates may be found in the dictionary under “somnolent,” Fiorina’s talk was energetic, punchy and well-crafted.

Wielding a hand mike, she paced a small stage erected in the middle of an audience of 500, wearing a bright red pencil skirt and matching ruffled jacket as she punctuated a rip job attack on Barbara Boxer with steady chops of her left hand (NB: Opposed on principle to all forms of sexism, Calbuzz mentions her wardrobe choice solely as a contextual element in describing the production values of her convention appearance).

Assailing Boxer on issues from abortion to the Delta smelt and the 1992 House banking scandal, and never mentioning her primary rivals, Hurricane Carly insisted she is the only Republican who can defeat the 18-year incumbent.

She portrayed Boxer as a narcissistic, ineffective captive of Democratic special interests, from unions to “radical environmentalists,” as she generated the only spontaneous enthusiasm in the room thus far in the convention (not counting the boos when GOP moderate Sen. Abel Maldonado was introduced).

“Isn’t it ironic that Barbara Boxer would work so hard to protect a two-inch fish, but not lift a finger to protect the unborn,” she said at one point.

“Bring ‘em on,” she thundered at another, after cataloging liberal special interests that will fight to defend the incumbent.

All the fiery rhetoric aside, and notwithstanding the full ear blast of Van Halen’s “Jump” which closed the Hurricane’s star turn, the highlight of her coming out act was “Hot Air: The Movie,” a 7 minute-30 second acid flashback web video produced by Davis, the auteur of Fiorina’s now-infamous “Demon Sheep” ad attacking GOP foe Tom Campbell as an ersatz conservative.

“I thought of (Boxer’s) head inflating, getting bigger and bigger, until it burst through the top of the Capitol,” Davis said by way explanation of his latest oevre, which must be seen to be genuinely appreciated.

This just in: The “Tea Party Rally,” which promised a big blast of  anti-government populist anger, turned out to be a big bust, a bunch of standing around by maybe 150 people, most of them appearing to be guys named Eugene who formerly populated the high school radio club.

BTW, the NYT’s Kate Zernike has an excellent takeout on why the movement is focused on economics to the near exclusion of traditionally right-wing social issues.

Overheard: “It’s very important for us not to peak too soon.”
–A spinner for wannabe governor Steve Poizner, tongue firmly in cheek, to a gaggle of wretched ink-stained types.

Old conventional wisdom: Meg Whitman is a super-wealthy political novice who’s trying to buy the election and won’t even talk to reporters.

New Conventional wisdom: Meg Whitman is a super-wealthy political novice who’s trying to buy the election but who talks to reporters.

We read this stuff so you don’t have to: The Calbuzz Press Clips scores are in for next day coverage of eMeg’s surprise press session on Friday, which yielded the most information to date on where she stands on a host of substantive policy issues:

Chroniclers Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli had the best bullet-point overview (from policy to politics), while Jack Chang at the Bee produced the most detailed piece on where she stands on pension reform (which should have public employees waking up in a cold sweat and SEIU leaders going deeper into their wallets on behalf of Jerry Brown), as Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star breaks it down on Whitman’s stance on illegal immigration, which is considerably less hardcore, or more compassionate, depending on how you look at it.

Update 9:30 p.m. Steve Poizner Saturday night followed Franklin Roosevelt’s famous dictum for public speaking: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

In his big dinner speech to the delegates, The Commish spoke for just under 10 minutes, after a strong videotaped endorsement (“We can’t afford Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third term”) from right-wing Rep. Tom McClintock, a California conservative favorite. By contrast, Friday night had the feel of an expansive “evening with Meg Whitman,” as she spoke for about 30 minutes with the use of a teleprompter, preceded by a formal introduction by Mitt Romney and followed by a way-long phony “conversation” with conservative talk show host Eric Hogue tossing softballs to eMeg and Mitt, who sat perched on stools on the stage.

It was hard to avoid the notion that eMeg’s expanded time slot was somehow related to the $250,000 she donated to the state GOP last year, but Poizner, pacing the stage as he spoke without notes or a podium, made the most of his opportunity.

Although he’ll never be confused as an orator with Barack Obama, he delivered a crisp statement of the criteria for his candidacy and clearly framed the distinctions between Her Megness and himself , declaiming on the virtues of “individual liberty…personal responsibility…free markets (and) smaller, more accountable government.”

“As Tom McClintock said, there’s a big battle going on right now for the heart and soul of the Republican party. There’s basically two camps. One camp wants to re-brand; one camp wants to move the Republican party to the center; one camp wants to reposition the Republican party. I just couldn’t disagree with that more.”

Road Trip: 3 Key Questions for the GOP Convention

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Cue the elephants: Although half of our Western Hemisphere Bureau is on Special Assignment, sampling voter opinion in Cozumel, the short-handed National Affairs Desk will try to soldier on to offer our unique brand of babble-to-babble coverage of this weekend’s Republican state convention.

The festivities promise to be the most intriguing political event since, um, Eric Massa made Glenn Beck’s head explode, as the confab bristles with crucial questions about the future of the California GOP, if not the whole damn Republic. Like:

Will Carly Fiorina stroll the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara accompanied by a Demon Sheep? Will Tom Campbell issue a white paper entitled: “Sami Al-Arian: A Man and His Music”?

Will Meg Whitman take Mitt Romney’s advice to use a little dab of Brylcreem? Will Steve Poizner unveil a cell phone GPS device that only  allows right turns?

Will Joe Garofoli try to sneak those little booze bottles from the mini-bar out in a pillowcase, bellowing that they should be included in his room rate? Will Flash Fleischman be carted off in a straitjacket from the sheer excitement of it all?

Only Calbuzz, from our skybox high above the convention floor, will answer these and other of life’s persistent questions.

You sure do ask a lot of stupid questions: Of course, it’s also true that answers to several other, um, more purely political questions may help to shape the increasingly entertaining GOP primary races for governor and U.S. Senate. Such as:

1-Will eMeg talk to the press?

Meg Whitman, the GOP’s front-runner for governor, heads for the convention coming off her worst week of the campaign since, well, since the last state Republican convention.

Her bizarre behavior at the now-infamous Union Pacific non-press conference train wreck not only attracted a ton of national media attention – here, hereherehere and here , for example – but also drew a quarter-ton of brickbats from within her own party, like the wily conservative blogger Jon “Flash” Fleischman, who’s also a state GOP officer:

I have not been in a hurry to pen a commentary on this topic as it seems like how an individual campaign handles the media is really its own business.

Except as of yesterday, we are now shifting to “embarrassing” as the adjective of choice to describe the situation of Whitman and reporters — where we are now seeing prime time television news reports about the avoiding of reporters! This is not good for Whitman, in my humble opinion, and I know it is not good for the GOP — the latter being my reason for weighing in.

A small-bore controversy at first glance, Whitman’s performance in Oakland on Monday seemed to crystallize a bundle of doubts about her candidacy – her record of failing to vote, her shyness about debates, her year-long avoidance of serious press interviews, her refusal to release her tax returns, her disinclination to avoid any but the most controlled campaign events – that can be summed up in the question: Who is Meg Whitman?

eMeg’s sprint to the head of the pack has been built entirely on the strength of millions in paid advertising. Now her imperious behavior, however, has got the press corps snarling and growling, which could make things unpleasant for her, at best, should the pack go into full barking and baying mode.

One good way to soothe the beasts would be to make herself available for a full-blown press conference at the convention, in which she handles every question that comes at her, by herself, without restrictions and without the help of press handlers or down field blocks from campaign thugs.

2-How hard will Poizner hit illegal immigration?

Still far behind eMeg in the polls, Steve Poizner is showing signs of gaining some traction with his recent red meat offerings to the GOP right-wing, a faction over-represented among the grassroots convention attendees.

The V.C. Star’s Timm Herdt has smartly noted the emphasis that Poizner has been putting on the issue of illegal immigration, among the most visceral concerns of conservative voters.

With eMeg having expressed her distaste for the milestone Proposition 187, Poizner will work all weekend to rally the troops around this and other filet mignon matters; if he succeeds, he could build up some steam heading out of the weekend and into next Monday’s first debate with Her Megness.

“Meg’s message so far has been very muddled,” said one veteran GOP consultant who’s not playing in the governor’s race. “Steve is now talking directly to the conservative base and what he’s saying has some edge to it.”

3-What’s the Tea Party going to do?

As the aforementioned Chronicler Garafoli reported, a busload battalion of Tea Party types plan to raise the flag at the convention, which could make for some interesting political theater:

There may not be any candidate debates at the GOP hoedown this weekend, but the pitchfork and torch crowd will be welcomed home like prodigal children….angry prodigal children. Is there a family therapist in the house?

“Probably 70 percent to 80 percent of our supporters are disaffected Republicans,” TP Express spokesman Joe Wierzbicki told us Monday. So while the Tea P has problems with both parties, they have a better chance to affect change by changing the GOP, he said.

“By us being there, I’m sure people will be wondering,’Is the Republican Party selling out to the Tea Party?’ or ‘Is the Tea Party selling out to the Republican Party?’ People can have that discussion. I’m sure it’s a little bit of both,” he said.

Good times.

For conservatives, the energy and the passion of the political moment reside squarely with the Tea Party crowd, and their enthusiasm for a candidate can make a difference in a close race. Just ask Senator Martha Coakley, D-Mass.

One beneficiary of it this weekend will likely be Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, the right-wing’s favorite son in the three-way GOP primary for the nomination to oppose Senator Barbara Boxer in the fall. As Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina beat each other’s brains in on issues like Israel and internet taxes, you can make an argument that DeVore is the only guy in the race with a clear, identifiable political base.

As the Tea Party’s tribune, DeVore could make things interesting if either Campbell or Fiorina fades, and he’s left standing as the conservative foil to a moderate front-runner.

All that said, the biggest question of the weekend convention is: How much does it really matter?

Traditionally, Republican conventions have been pep rallies for grassroots folks who ring doorbells, make phone calls and help organize modest fundraisers. But California’s zillionaire candidates are running for governor on television, period, and their presence at the state convention is something of a courtesy call.

This is especially true of Whitman whom, our sources tell us, has already bought a staggering $12.6 million in cable and broadcast time. That kind of campaign plan renders party activism and enthusiasm largely irrelevant.

Sure, it’s nice to have some excitement generated from the base and sure, convention types represent some votes themselves and with the people they can bring to the dance.

But it’s not like the old days (“We walked 12 miles to school, through the snow, barefoot!”) when a candidate for governor stone cold needed hard-core party activists. eMeg, especially, has no need for actual people, except perhaps as props.

A final note: Calbuzzer Don Ringe imagines eMeg and The Commish encountering each other in the convention hotel hallway.