Newsom Hunkers Down: Jaye Books, South Rises


ericjaye2When Calbuzz heard from the enterprising Phil Matier and Andy Ross that Eric Jaye, Gavin Newsom’s longtime senior political adviser, was quitting his Prince’s campaign for governor because of “a fundamental difference” (his words) with strategist Garry South, we weren’t bowled over with surprise.

It’s not that South is a control freak; in fact, he’s perfectly capable of working collaboratively and cooperatively with campaign managers and other candidate handlers.

But Jaye to date in the campaign had Newsom heavily focused on using and trumpeting his use of online social network tools, both for organizing and for fundraising and South  is simply not, by nature,  a Twitter-Facebook-kind of guy.gary_south

The last political consultant to elect a Democrat governor of the state, the Duke of Darkness is a bare-knuckles, in-your-face, shoe-leather, hand-to-hand combat veteran who has two main tasks: 1) Get his candidate to raise a ship load of money and 2) Needle, badger and tweak primary rival Jerry Brown at every turn.

Jaye and South were both doing their best to handle the split-up professionally, and with as little inside vitriol splashing on Newsom as possible. We tried to bait South into talking but he refused to engage.

But as Calbuzz sees it, Newsom’s decision to dump the guy who’s been with him from the beginning of his career, in favor of the guy who has actually won a tough Democratic primary and two governor’s races –- not to mention taking out number of millionaire opponents — suggests Newsom is choosing to forego the all-tweet-all-the-time strategy in favor of a little throwback hardball.

As we noted July 2 , while Brown is sitting on more than $7 million (without actually announcing his candidacy), Newsom has raised just $2.8 million and has only $1.1 million in the bank, despite his legions of Twitter and Facebook fans.

Jaye apparently felt that Newsom could use his online profile to pull an Obama, who shattered all known fundraising records in his presidential bid with a major assist from the web. Fair enough, but that notion ignores the fact that before he was Lord of the Internets, Obama was an old school Chicago pol, with guys like David Axelrod locking him up to dial for dollars and running him through countless fundraisers so that in the year before the election he outraised Hillary Clinton the old fashioned way.

That’s what Newsom must to do to become more than a San Francisco boutique candidate. Brown’s long record and saturation name ID, for better or worse, presents a formidable obstacle for a rookie candidate, and Newsom needs to find a way to gain a financial and tactical edge on General Jerry.

(Aside: We were reminded of the decision made by former Gov. Pete Wilson in September 1995 when he picked Craig Fuller, an old Bush Sr. hand, to manage his presidential campaign over George Gorton, his friend and campaign strategist for 25 years. Gorton had never run a national campaign.)

Democratic primaries are all about capturing the party’s left-wing, and over at Calitics, our liberal friends fretted that losing Jaye, with his back-to-the-roots connection to Newsom and his progressive politics, is worrisome for the San Francisco mayor’s chances.

“South has a history with the radical moderates over at the Democratic Leadership Council, and that’s how he won with Davis,” wrote the estimable Brian Leubitz. “He talked ToughOnCrime ™, business, and all that jive. And it won him the 1998 election.

“But California is in a very different place today than it was then. If Garry South is going to be running Newsom’s campaign, he’ll have to update his strategy. It didn’t work with Steve Westly, and it won’t fare much better now.”

This is fuzzy thinking. Newsom’s first challenge is to beat Brown in a Democratic primary. So why in that context, would South even try to position Newsom to the right of the Attorney General?

Newsom and South are going to have to run a two track campaign: extolling the alleged wonders of San Francisco while ripping Brown’s record — as a governor, mayor, attorney general, state party chairman and the other 173 offices he’s held –- up one side and down the other. This is what South knows how to do, and is very, very good at. And it’s the pathway that Newsom has now chosen as his longtime friend and adviser leaves the field.

— By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine

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There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar Ave7 says:

    Bad news for Jerry Brown! People can complain all they want about negative campaigning, but it is irrefutably effective and South is the master. This is the guy who spent almost $10 million – in the other party’s primary – to hand pick Gray Davis’ general election opponent (selecting Bill Simon, the Gomer Pyle of the Republican party, over LA Mayor Richard Riordan).

    If I had a choice between the only political consultant to elect a Democrat to the Governor’s office in my lifetime (twice), and a former corporate lawyer from the Gap, guess which one I’d want.

    The question now is not whether South will give sound advice, but whether Prince Gavin will listen.

  2. avatar Bob Brigham says:

    I think you are missing a couple of major things.

    What this says about Gavin

    Newsom has a major trust deficit to make up after betraying his campaign manager and good friend. This does not help on that front. There is no longer a single person working on Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign who was with him for his only race just six years ago. Not one. Out of a much touted “machine” of 30 or 40 people. Not a good sign and I don’t think the campaign’s brain drain has gone unnoticed by the 15,000+ people who donated to that campaign but haven’t given to his gubernatorial effort.

    Newsom is parasitic and while California offers plenty of fresh victims who don’t know him well, it normally makes sense to activate past supporters before expanding. To-date the campaign has failed to do that in any meaningful way.

    What this says about the campaign

    I don’t think this is about facebook and twitter. Casting Jaye as a new media guru who wanted to keep it real with base is just absurd. This is about how to deal with the candidate — who is a delicate flower. Eric knows how to work around the Newsom’s telephobia. The massive amount raised in ’03 (which dwarfs his gubernatorial effort) is a testament to Jaye knowing how to deal with Newsom having absolutely no discipline as a fundraiser beyond a willingness to show up at events.

    I think South is trying to teach an old dog new tricks and instead of working around the problem, trying to make Newsom into a politician he just isn’t. In the last nine months, this has created the worst of both worlds with Jaye unable to effectively work around Newsom’s problems and South ineffective in getting a 40 year old to completely change his ways.

    So now we’ll get to see South unable to turn Newsom into something he isn’t while the one person in the world best able to take advantage of who Newsom actually is out.

    Newsom’s only hope in a two way race against Brown was a bank shot he just decided not to shoot. The unfortunate thing is that Newsom has decided instead of building a movement he’s just going to tear Brown down, which is bad news for Democrats as Newsom no longer has a path to the nomination but South excels at triangulating. This is going to get ugly.

  3. avatar gdewar says:

    I think this idea that it’s an “either/or” situation vis a vis strategy is a mistake. No one is going to win an election blasting out Twitter messages or running around begging for friends on Facebook, but nor are they going to win by ignoring online advertising and other online promotion tools either. You need a combo of both, and that is what the Jaye/South combo would provide. Besides, no one really knows who Gavin even is outside of the bubble, aside from “Whether you like it or not.” and “the incident.”

    The Internet is not made up of kids, and people are spending more time online to find out more about upcoming elections than ever before. Nielsen data and others back this up. I think though in this case if you’re doing solely social networking stuff, let’s face it there’s no 15% markup, and I’m sure South looked at all the spending, didn’t see the money coming in, and decided this was not working. Fair enough.

    As for an attack strategy – yes, attacking your opponent and calling him names and so on can work just fine. There’s just one thing – the opponent(s) can, and will hit back and if Gavin is gonna go for the jugular, he can expect it in return.

    Gavin Newsom has never been able to take criticism, even from loyalists (he fired Margaret Brodkin as head of youth services simply because she questioned some budget priorities internally, and never went to the press with them) – how on earth is he going to handle a tough old fighter like Jerry Brown, or the angry GOP, who will not hesitate to go through his record and expose any inaccuracies. (BTW, he was furious that the Chronicle, a longtime supporter, published a mere 1 article suggesting he was less than perfect.).

    • avatar minman says:

      Good points from Bob & Gdewer. I felt that combined, the 2 consultants diversity of experience and style could result in a true strength. With all due respect to Gary’s talents, it now looks like a looming and losing pissing match to disgrace. Too bad for Newsom and too bad for Democrats. We’ve seen this act play out before.

  4. avatar chronboy says:

    Re Craig Fuller running Wilson’s presidential campaign. We all know how well that turned out.

  5. avatar Ironsides says:

    For clarification, Craig Fuller was a money guy and had no experience running a campaign.

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